woman in early stages of alcohol abuse

What Are the Stages of Alcohol Abuse?

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The alcohol abuse stages can progress quickly, causing changes in the lives of individuals who struggle with the substance. Alcohol addiction affects a number of people across the United States on a daily basis, leading to life-altering changes in the person and the lives of those around them. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), a survey conducted in 2021 yielded results stating approximately 29.5 million people in the United States aged 12 or older struggled with alcoholism.

The impacts on health and overall wellness caused by alcoholism can be severe and getting help as soon as possible is crucial to preventing these health complications.

Binge Drinking, Alcohol Use, and Alcoholism

The beginning alcohol abuse stages can include binge drinking, alcohol use, and lead to alcoholism. Binge drinking is when someone consumes a number of drinks containing alcohol in a short amount of time. For men, this number of drinks is about 5 and for women, the number is 4 drinks. Alcohol use is drinking alcohol socially.

Both of these behaviors can lead to alcoholism, which is when someone becomes dependent upon the substance in order to function normally on a daily basis. Using alcohol can build a tolerance, which results in needing more and more in order to feel the desired effects. This can lead to dependence on the substance, making it difficult to go without using it. 

Early Alcohol Abuse

The first of the alcohol abuse stages is early alcohol abuse. This can include binge drinking, or drinking heavily during social drinking. This can lead to significant impairment in those who use this substance to feel intoxicated.

Continued alcohol abuse will result in tolerance and dependence. Even on occasion, drinking heavily can result in life-altering consequences. When someone drinks heavily, it can have an impact on liver function, heart rate, and blood pressure. It can lead to heavier use of alcohol, which can result in even further complications.

Mild Drinking

Increasing in moderation, mild drinking is the next in the alcohol abuse stages. Mild drinking occurs when the level of drinking and the number of drinking occurrences increases. A person can go from having a drink every couple of days or weeks, to drinking a higher quantity of alcohol more often.

As previously stated, the more a person drinks, the risk of developing a tolerance and dependence on the substance increases. 

Increased or Problem Drinking

Problematic drinking can result once a tolerance or dependence has been developed. During the stages of alcohol abuse, the person is progressively becoming more dependent on the substance.

At the stage of problematic drinking, they could be having a hard time going without a drink on a daily basis. If they try to go without, they could be feeling or experiencing some uncomfortable and potentially severe detox or withdrawal symptoms associated with alcohol. These symptoms can include irritability, elevated heart rate, nausea, and vomiting among other symptoms.

Late Alcoholism or Alcohol Abuse

The last and most severe of the stages of alcohol abuse is late alcoholism. At this point, a person is drinking heavily and consistently despite the negative consequences associated with alcohol. They may have experienced job loss and chronic unemployment, loss of trust and family relationships or friendships, and potentially have had legal repercussions associated with their drinking.

The impacts on their health and overall well-being can be severe. Liver damage, heart damage, and damage to other vital organs may have begun. Receiving proper care and help as a person tries to end their addiction to alcohol is crucial at this point.

The symptoms associated with alcohol detox and withdrawal can be severe and lead to further health complications if not properly addressed and monitored.


Detoxing from alcohol is the first step to regaining control of their life in individuals who are struggling with this substance. Alcohol can affect the body the same way other drugs can, and can lead to health issues, and affect mental health. Having the proper care and medical assistance as someone goes through the process of alcohol detox is vital to ensuring safety and increasing success rates.

Often, when someone tries to stop using alcohol on their own, the symptoms of withdrawal can be severely uncomfortable and may seem impossible to endure. Oftentimes, people return to drinking as a means of alleviating the symptoms.

Proper detox and withdrawal, under the right medical supervision, can help a person to be as comfortable as possible, with minimal impacts on health and overall well-being. Having this comfort can make the transition to living without alcohol a lot easier. 

Getting Healthy With Ocean Hills Recovery

Struggling with alcohol is a life-changing experience for those who are experiencing it. Addiction to alcohol can lead to health complications, changes in behavior and mood, and broken relationships with family and friends. Recovery from alcohol addiction is possible. If you or a loved one are struggling, Ocean Hills Recovery in Orange County, California, can help. Our team of trained professional staff can help you through the beginning stages of your journey to recovery.

Contact us today and begin your journey.

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