stages of alcoholism

What Are the Stages of Alcoholism?

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While occasional drinking in most people is not a reason to become alarmed, uncontrolled and routine drinking can lead to alcoholism. The stages of alcoholism can be progressively detrimental to the human body. Understanding the effects of alcohol and the risks of addiction from alcohol abuse can be beneficial to those who actively drink and especially for those who have a predisposition to alcoholism, whether through genetics or due to past traumas or mental health concerns. 

What is Alcoholism?

Alcoholism is defined by the Mayo Clinic as “a pattern of alcohol use that involves problems controlling your drinking”. It goes on to say that there is a preoccupation with drinking, or even continuing use after it has begun to cause problems in a person’s life. Alcoholism also refers to the need to drink more and more alcohol in order to achieve the desired effects from it. This is due to tolerance and dependence. 

Alcoholism can lead to withdrawal symptoms that can be excruciatingly uncomfortable, and potentially lead to fatal results. This is why being medically supervised when undergoing detox is highly recommended. 

The Stages of Alcoholism

The stages of alcoholism progressively get worse. Beginning with a pre-alcoholism stage, and often ending with lifelong health issues and potentially death. Understanding these different stages is important for those who believe they struggle, as it can help lead to the ending of alcohol consumption and choosing recovery.


During this stage of alcoholism, consumption of alcohol has recently begun or increased. Life events often trigger someone to turn to alcohol as a means of coping with whatever is going on. Job related stress, the passing of a loved one, or a romantic relationship ending are some of the common reasons why people turn to alcohol. It is vital to be aware of the dangers of alcohol at this stage because at this point, addiction hasn’t been reached and alcohol hasn’t become a problem… yet. 

Early Stage Alcoholism

This is where problematic behaviors begin in reference to drinking. Behaviors such as binge drinking, drinking to the point of blacking out, daily drinking and making drinking a priority begin. An individual can still go to work, function within society normally, and are able to take care of themselves. The term “functioning alcoholic” is often used during this stage of alcoholism.

Middle Stage Alcoholism

In this stage of alcoholism, alcohol may have begun to significantly impact the individual’s life. Loved ones may have begun to notice a change in behaviors and drinking patterns. During this stage, drinking may have also begun to cause weight gain, shakes, and memory loss. This is where someone should begin to consider seeking professional help to safely and effectively end the alcohol use.

End Stage Alcoholism

This is the stage of alcoholism where drinking has become all consuming. Work and family are no longer a priority. Mentally and physically alcohol is a requirement to be able to function. It is commonly seen here that a person drinks all day every day and nothing else is of concern to them. It can also be likely that the person has unsuccessfully had attempts at ending their alcohol use at some point, and being that they were unable to stop, they may feel hopeless when it comes to alcohol. They often feel like they will die as an alcoholic. 

How is Alcoholism Treated?

At any of these four stages, alcoholism is treatable. Nipping alcoholism in the bud during the earlier stages can prove to be beneficial to those seeking recovery from alcohol abuse. However, even during the later stages of alcoholism, there is help that can make recovery possible. There are medical professionals to help reach the goal of long term sobriety. 

Inpatient detoxification is highly recommended when it comes to ending alcohol abuse. The side effects of alcohol abuse and alcohol withdrawal can be dangerous. These withdrawal symptoms can vary in severity and there can be underlying health concerns that can lead to complications. This is why alcohol detox is best done in an inpatient, medically supervised setting. There can be spikes in blood pressure and heart rate, and these symptoms can lead to more severe complications such as seizures or even strokes. 

There are also behavioral therapies that can be implemented in an inpatient setting that can counteract alcohol’s effects on the brain. Rewiring the brain is essential for overcoming alcoholism, and participating in therapies can help.

Getting Help for Alcoholism in Southern California

There is help and hope for those who suffer from alcohol addiction. Our trained professionals help alcoholics as they begin their recovery journey on a daily basis. The goal is to provide a safe and comfortable environment where recovery can begin. Contact us today.

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