The Stages of Alcoholism

Few people plan to become alcoholics. We know that addiction is a disease of the brain and is not a matter that we can control with willpower alone. Alcoholism develops progressively over time and in stages.

Here are the details you need to know about the stages of alcoholism and why it’s better to get help as soon as possible. If you would like to discuss your treatment options, call our helpline today at 800-839-1686Who Answers?.

Early Alcoholism

The early stage of alcoholism is the most deceptive. During this stage, the body adapts to alcohol consumption. It’s a fact of our biology that our bodies attempt to adapt to stress and chronic alcohol abuse puts our bodies into a state of stress adaptation. During the adaptation phase of early alcoholism, alcohol tolerance increases.

Most people even find that they feel better when they drink than when they’re sober. Although this can seem like a good thing to the addict, it’s actually a sign of damage being done to the body. The liver and central nervous system are adapting to the presence of the toxins in alcohol, but the toxins are still causing harm.

The Middle Stages of Alcoholism

Stages of Alcoholism

Withdrawal symptoms are experienced during the middle stage of alcoholism.

Until this point, alcoholics have had a choice about whether or not to take a drink. Alcohol consumption is optional in the early stages but most choose to continue doing so because they enjoy the effects. By the time the middle stage of alcoholism is reached, most people feel unwell when they don’t drink; this is a sign of withdrawal. Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include the following:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Anxiety
  • Shaking or tremors
  • Headaches
  • Seizures
  • Excessive sweating

Withdrawal occurs because the body’s cells have become dependent on the presence of alcohol. Along with the above symptoms, people who are in the middle stages of alcoholism will also experience intense cravings for more alcohol.

People in the middle stage of alcoholism are more likely to feel like they are out of control. They know that they need to drink at inappropriate times but are physically dependent on alcohol.

Because they feel so physically ill when they don’t drink, they know that they need to keep doing so—even though they still may believe they can choose not to drink. It is common to hide alcohol and to drink in secret. At this stage, most alcoholics also lose the ability to accurately gauge their level of intoxication.

Their cells have been damaged by alcohol consumption and their tolerance decreases as a result, but their withdrawal symptoms are worse when they don’t drink.

Late Stages of Alcoholism

Severe alcoholism sets in after excessive alcohol consumption has occurred over a period of several years. The consequences of drinking have caught up with the drinker by the late stages of alcoholism.

Startling Facts about Alcoholism and How Breakthrough Treatment Helps You Get Sober

Although any amount of alcohol causes malnutrition, it becomes nearly impossible for those with severe alcoholism to avoid the consequences of malnutrition. Vitamin deficiencies make it difficult for the body to repair itself. Deficiencies of vitamins such as thiamine (vitamin B1), vitamin B12 and folate also cause physical symptoms.

Prolonged chronic alcohol consumption also causes secondary diseases. In the severe alcoholism phase, many people suffer from liver diseases such as fatty liver, hepatitis and cirrhosis. Late-stage alcoholics are also more likely to suffer from heart disease, chronic pancreatitis and various types of cancer.

Severe alcoholism also causes serious mental disorders including dementia. Most people in this stage of alcoholism are not able to work. The body’s organs are so damaged in late-stage alcoholism that individuals are at serious risk of death.

Recovery from Alcoholism

The chances of recovery from alcoholism are better the earlier you seek treatment. Although people can recover even from severe alcoholism, damage to the body may be irreversible. Many people need medical assistance to detox from alcohol and begin their journey toward recovery. If you’re ready to take those first steps, call our helpline today at 800-839-1686Who Answers?.

How Our Helpline Works

For those seeking addiction treatment for themselves or a loved one, the helpline is a private and convenient solution.

Calls to any general helpline (non-facility specific 1-8XX numbers) for your visit will be answered by American Addiction Centers (AAC).

We are standing by 24/7 to discuss your treatment options. Our representatives work solely for AAC and will discuss whether an AAC facility may be an option for you. Our helpline is offered at no cost to you and with no obligation to enter into treatment. Neither nor AAC receives any commission or other fee that is dependent upon which treatment provider a visitor may ultimately choose.

For more information on AAC’s commitment to ethical marketing and treatment practices, or to learn more about how to select a treatment provider, visit our About AAC page. If you wish to explore additional treatment options or connect with a specific rehab center, you can browse top-rated listings or visit SAMHSA.