older woman with end stage alcoholism symptoms

What Is End-Stage Alcoholism?

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By name, end-stage alcoholism is the final level of alcoholism someone can reach. It is destructive, and usually, by this point, someone has been drinking for years. The body is affected in different ways, and the person who is struggling with alcohol may feel like there is no point in getting better. They may be experiencing different physical health and mental health conditions as a result of drinking and may have begun to feel the effects of organ failure. This is the reality of some who are at this stage of alcoholism.

Stages of Alcoholism vs End Stage Alcoholism

The stages of alcoholism progressively get worse. What are these stages? Social drinking is not indicative of a problem. It does not always lead to alcohol abuse and generally means someone has a few drinks when they go out socially.

Binge drinking is the next stage. This is when someone excessively drinks for a short amount of time and has the capability to stop for weeks or months. It can be a sign of future alcohol problems. Heavy drinking is when someone begins consuming more alcohol, on a daily basis or socially.

Alcohol dependency is when the point of drinking is to feel normal. Alcohol has become a need rather than used socially or manageably. Addiction or dependence is the next stage. At this point, alcohol has become a part of day-to-day life in order to fend off withdrawal symptoms and feel normal. Negative behavior can begin, and daily life can be affected. 

The final stage is end-stage alcoholism. At this point, the person has been abusing alcohol for years, their life can seemingly revolve around alcohol to the point where they may have lost jobs, homes, family relationships, or friendships due to their drinking. They could be experiencing some severe health consequences that could result in death. Alcohol has been a problem for a long time, and now the body is feeling some pretty severe effects.

Physical Effects

The physical effects of end-stage alcoholism can be damaging to the body. At this point, there may be long-lasting health issues such as high blood pressure. This condition is manageable with medication but there are other health concerns that can be far more damaging and unmanageable. The impacts on health can be incurable and fatal, which is why this stage of alcoholism is so scary.


End-stage alcoholism generally results in liver failure or liver disease. The liver is a vital organ in the human body that is responsible for over 500 functions in the body, including filtering out toxins.

When the liver is no longer functioning properly, whether that be due to fat deposits or scarring, these harmful toxins are left unfiltered leading to health complications. Fatty liver and cirrhosis of the liver are a result of long-term heavy drinking and can be irreversible. 


Alcohol can affect kidney function. It disrupts the hormone that controls the functionality of the kidney. Because the liver is so vital to life and body functionality, liver disease perpetuates kidney disease. 

When the liver is working properly, it is not protecting the rest of the organs, and this contributes to the development of impaired sodium levels, and acute kidney failure.

Mental Effects

The effects that end-stage alcoholism can have on someone mentally include alcoholic dementia. Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome is caused by a lack of thiamine in the brain. This can lead to problems creating new memories or processing new information.

It is also characterized by problems recalling old memories. Wernicke-Korsakoff includes two different stages of the same condition. Wernicke’s encephalopathy is acute while Korsakoff’s amnesia is more chronic and likely long-lasting. This condition can cause serious impacts on someone’s life.

Alcohol Detox

When the body becomes dependent on alcohol to function normally, it can make the process of ending alcohol abuse complicated. The symptoms someone endures during alcohol detox can be uncomfortable and sometimes they lead people struggling back to drinking if they try to quit on their own.

Alcohol detox symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, heart rate changes, and high blood pressure, and can include seizures. Mentally, alcohol detox can lead to depression, anxiety, and a host of other mental health concerns.

This is why it is highly suggested that those looking to heal from the effects of alcoholism seek professional medical help to alleviate and address any physical and emotional symptoms that may arise. 

Getting Healthy in Southern California

Addiction to alcohol can be deadly. Receiving proper care and healing from the physical and emotional impacts is crucial to survival. At Ocean Hills Recovery in Orange County, California, we offer a compassionate, safe, and comfortable place to begin the healing process. Our team of professionals can help during this hard time, and provide support to those who need it.

If you or a loved one struggle with alcohol, contact us today.

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