Stages of Alcoholism

WellnessKeen Staff Nov 20, 2018
Let's discuss different stages of alcohol addiction and how alcoholism affects drinkers.
Alcoholism is defined as a progressive degenerative disease resulting due to habitual intoxication, prolonged and excessive intake of alcoholic drinks, leading to a breakdown in health and an addiction to alcohol.
Deprivation of alcohol for alcoholics is marked by loss of control, craving for alcohol, physical dependence on it and very high alcohol tolerance levels. Often people don't realize that what starts as a harmless social drinking turns into a severe addiction that tends to have adverse effects on the psychological as well as physical health of the alcoholic.
Alcoholism has varying degrees of dependence, and hence it aggravates gradually. It can be categorized in four stages with differences in the intensities of the alcohol addiction. Here are the four stages of alcoholism and the symptoms associated with each stage:

Stage One

There is a very thin line between being a regular drinker and reaching the first stage of alcohol addiction. When a person starts drinking to get rid of his bad mood, it is a sign of the onset of alcoholism. Thus, the first stage begins when the person starts depending on alcohol, basically, for its mood altering properties.
Apart from social drinking, this stage marks the phase where the persons starts to consume alcohol for feeling good and getting rid of all the depression, stress, and tensions in his life.
One of the important characteristics of this stage is the gradual increase in the alcohol tolerance level of the person. This means that the amount of alcohol that has to be consumed by the person to get 'high', increases substantially.
Signs:
  • Dependence on alcohol as a psychological escape from stress
  • Increased levels of alcohol tolerance
  • Denial about dependence on alcohol
  • Frequent drinking

Stage Two

The craving for alcohol becomes much more strong and intense in this stage. The dependence on alcohol becomes much more evident, and the person starts drinking not because he wants to relieve tensions or stress, but because his body has got accustomed to it, and hence, craves for it.
This is the stage where the person begins to realize his dependence on alcohol and may also feel ashamed or guilty about his excessive drinking. He may also start drinking before social events and might also start drinking early at the beginning of the day.
Although most of the alcoholics feel the need to quit alcohol at this stage, majority are in denial. This is also the stage where the body starts giving indication of alcohol addiction, and the person experiences chronic hangovers and sporadic loss of control.
Signs:
  • Chronic Hangovers
  • Frequent Blackouts
  • Denial
  • Increased alcohol dependence
  • Sporadic loss of control
  • Attempt to hide excessive drinking habits
  • Unsuccessful attempts to quit drinking
  • Guilt and shame about drinking

Stage Three

In this stage, the alcohol problem starts to affect other areas of the person's life related to work and relationships. The person will show less interest in all vital things, will stop socializing much and even avoid friends and family. The 3rd stage marks a serious loss of control over alcohol consumption. He can't stick to his decision regarding drinking.
For example, although the person might have decided to limit the consumption to two or three drinks, he will have no control over drinking and will go on consuming excessive quantities of alcohol. One of the most characteristic features of this stage is a decrease in the alcohol tolerance level of the person.
Signs:
  • Decrease in alcohol tolerance level
  • Avoiding family and friends
  • Alcohol affecting other important things in life
  • Development of multiple excuses justifying drinking
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Tremors
  • Unnecessary resentment and negative feelings

Stage Four

In this stage, the person will do almost anything and everything to get alcohol. Heavy drinking takes a toll in this stage, and the person shows chronic loss of control. The drinking is throughout the day, and often people who reach this stage find it difficult to maintain any full-time job.
The person not only feels a loss of control over alcohol consumption, but also becomes emotionally and physically accustomed to it to such an extent that he must consume alcohol to function normally. The alcoholic makes unsuccessful attempts to experience the 'happy high' after drinking alcohol and shows complete disregard for every important aspect of life.
The mild tremors seen in earlier stages now become 'fits', which are experienced when the body is deprived of alcohol. One of the characteristic symptoms observed in this stage include delirium tremens, which are nothing, but the 'shakes' accompanied by hallucinations.
Signs:
  • Lengthy intoxications
  • Moral deterioration
  • Experiencing indefinable fears
  • Alcoholic psychosis
  • Impaired thinking
  • Delirium tremens
  • Loss of alcohol tolerance
  • Hallucinations
  • Numbness
Alcohol can make you feel good about yourself for a while, but remember that the joyride is short-lived. Alcoholism has ruined the lives of several men and women. It is the reason for several broken marriages, domestic abuse, collapsed careers, and failed relationships.
There have been people who have hit rock bottom, been there done that and yet managed to battle the addiction to regain the control of their lives, and yet there remain those who simply wallowed in the misery, only to be drowned in it forever.
Disclaimer: This is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.