4 Stages of Alcoholism – What are they and How to Overcome?

Last Update on December 20, 2023 : Published on December 22, 2023
Stages of Alcoholism

Alcoholism seems to be a problem that has no end. But with a certain awareness and knowledge about different stages of alcoholism, it can be dealt with. Each stage of alcoholism has its unique characteristics and challenges. Therefore, to help a person with alcohol and intervene, it is important to understand these stages. So, without any further delay, let us explore the stages of alcoholism and its warning signs.

What does Alcoholism Mean?

Alcoholism, clinically known as alcohol use disorder (AUD), is a long-term condition characterized by an individual’s inability to control or stop drinking despite experiencing its effects. It is not that a person wakes up one morning and is addicted to alcohol.

The dependency on alcohol develops over time, and the person becomes addicted to it to the extent that functioning without alcohol becomes almost impossible.  The disorder impacts a person’s life, mental and physical health, relationships, and social communications.

Features of alcoholism

  1. People addicted to alcohol find it difficult to control the urge to drink.
  2. The body becomes resistant to alcohol, due to which a large amount needs to be consumed to get the desired result.
  3. Withdrawal symptoms like trembling hands, sweat, anxiety, feeling sick, and seizures are often seen.
  4. People with alcoholism find it difficult to control alcohol consumption.
  5. Lack of control is often seen in people struggling with alcoholism.
  6. Neglect family, friends, physical and mental well-being.

Despite experiencing consequences, people continue to drink. Therefore, if you want to help them recover, understanding the different phases of alcoholism is important. Here, we list its different phases.

Understanding the Stages of Alcoholism

Alcoholism or addiction to alcohol doesn’t begin in a day. There are different stages involved in the development of alcoholism. Identifying the signs is essential to help yourself or your loved ones avoid falling into the trap, as it will help make informed decisions. Here, we will explain its different stages.

Elvin Morton Jellinek was the first to introduce stages of alcoholism. According to him, there are four theoretical stages of alcohol addiction, each with its characteristics and warning signs.

Here’s a brief overview of the stages:

The four main stages of alcoholism include:

  • Pre-Alcoholic Stage
  • Early-Stage Alcoholism
  • Middle Alcoholic Phase
  • End-Stage Alcoholism

1. Pre-Alcoholic Stage

This stage occurs before alcohol becomes an addiction. This is why identifying it is not easy. Even those in this stage cannot recognize they are falling into the trap of compulsive drinking because the way alcohol interacts with the mind and body is complex. It imitates certain chemicals released by the brain, which relaxes one.

Stage 1: The Early Stage

The stage of alcoholism often starts with an increase in drinking patterns. This generally means the person starts to frequently drink large quantities of alcohol. Also, you may find them getting involved in binge drinking or consuming multiple drinks in a short period. This is the initial telltale sign of a drinking problem.

Note – Binge drinking in both men and women is different. In men, it is binge drinking when they consume more than five drinks within a window of two hours, while binge drinking in females is having four drinks in two hours.

Usually, young adults and teenagers experiment with alcohol, and other signs indicate the problem. This includes:

  • Drinking because they feel bored.
  • Drink to feel stress-free.
  • To develop high tolerance.
  • Blacking out when drinking.

Stage 2: The Middle Stage

The second or the middle stage is about cravings and developing dependence on alcohol. During this stage, the problem of alcoholism starts affecting people around them. If a person stays persistent, then they begin to crave and think about alcohol.

This means the majority of time is spent on drinking and getting alcohol. This dependence causes several physical problems and withdrawal symptoms like:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Sweating
  • Increased heartbeat
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Cravings
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Pale skin

Stage 3: The Late Stage

This is the second last stage of alcoholism, and it involves severe use of alcohol and addiction.  At this point, the individual is so addicted to alcohol that they rely on it. This means their day-to-day life depends on alcohol and they have grown tolerant to the extent that they need to drink large quantities to feel the effect. Consequently, it makes the individual experience more damaging effects on overall well-being.

Stage 4: The End Stage

The last and final stage is when an individual loses all control over drinking alcohol.  At this point, the individual feels that without drinking, they can’t work. Their body needs alcohol to function and to feel normal. Even to get up from bed and to sleep, they need alcohol.

Without it, they show the following withdrawal symptoms:

  • Mood swings
  • Problem sleeping
  • Hallucinations
  • Anxiety
  • Headaches
  • Confusion
  • Rise in body temperature
  • Nausea, vomiting, or upset stomach
  • Increased heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Severe tumor
  • Seizures

This stage is complex as people show psychological and physical problems, and their loved ones see no way to help them out.

Recovery: A Pathway to Sobriety

Overcoming alcoholism is attainable, and it requires dedication, support, and guidance.  Here are some ways to walk on the path of recovery:

1. Acknowledging the Issue:

The first step is to recognize and admit that there is a problem. Once the person becomes self-aware and knows something needs attention, they start to take help, and the recovery process begins.

2. Seeking Professional Assistance:

When you have tried all that, you could consult a healthcare provider or an expert who knows different strategies that can help deal with addiction.

3. Detoxification (Detox):

When someone becomes physically dependent on alcohol, undergoing detoxification is best. It helps manage withdrawal symptoms, and the body starts to live without alcohol.

4. Therapy and counseling:

These can help address the underlying issues that contribute to alcoholism. CBT, motivational enhancement, and others can be implemented to change behaviors and thought patterns.

5. Support Groups:

Participating in support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) can provide a sense of community-shared experiences and accountability.

6. Change in Lifestyle:

Making lifestyle changes is also important in the recovery process. Exercise, balanced nutrition, and sufficient sleep can contribute to well-being.

7. Goal Setting:

It’s important to set goals for yourself during the recovery process. Celebrate your wins, even the smallest ones. This will help you stay on track in your recovery journey.

The Path Towards Sobriety

Alcoholism is not a disease that cannot be treated. Educating oneself about different stages and how they impact life and relationships makes walking on the path of recovery easy.

If you or someone you know is struggling with alcoholism, it is essential to pay attention to how things are changing. Awareness of bodily and mental changes helps one understand what is wrong. In such cases, seeking help from a professional helps as through interventions and therapies, they can help overcome alcohol abuse.

Remember, recovery from alcohol addiction is a journey. With patience, dedication, acceptance, and support from family and friends, a person can overcome addiction and live a fulfilling life with good relations and sobriety.

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About The Author

Ayush Yadav
Ayush Yadav

Aayush is a writer, and storyteller who is passionate about using words to help drive positive change and make people aware about the history. He holds a bachelor's in law, lives in the princely state Jaipur and is passionate about helping people in anyway possible. In his spare time, he is usually out with friends and enjoys exploring different facets of life.

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