What Are The Stages of Alcoholism?

stages of alcoholism

In our last blog, we looked into What is alcoholism? We determined alcoholism is a disease, also known as alcohol use disorder (AUD) when the body becomes dependent on alcohol. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, approximately 7.2 percent or 17 million adults in the United States ages 18 and older had an AUD in 2012.

There are stages of alcohol abuse that were defined by E. Morton Jellinek, a scientific researcher who did extensive work on alcoholism and wrote the book, The Disease Concept of Alcoholism. Jellinek was a major contributor to the modern view of alcoholism as a disease. The alcoholism stages are pre-alcoholic, early alcoholic, middle alcoholic, and late alcoholic.

Stages of Alcoholism

Pre-alcoholic – In this stage you might drink socially and are possibly experimenting with alcohol consumption. This often happens with adolescents, who also binge drink. Then, you might begin to develop a tolerance for alcohol. Ask yourself why you are drinking. If you drink for social reasons and can handle having a drink or two, you don’t need to worry. If you are drinking because you are self-medicating difficult emotional problems, or a physical problem, you could be in the pre-alcoholic stage. Self-medicating often leads to escalating drinking patterns, as you need more and more alcohol each time to get relief. If this is the case, consult a doctor for treatment for the underlying emotional or physical issues.

Early alcoholic – Drinking is no longer about social drinking, but rather a way to deal with emotional issues, tension and stress. You also find yourself drinking more frequently, not just at social occasions. You may even begin to feel uncomfortable about your drinking, but not be able to resist doing it and you are probably still able to hide your drinking from family, friends, and co-workers. At this stage, there are likely no outward physical changes, and you most likely do not get hangovers. Also, the mental aspect of drinking may begin to really take over. Although you get yourself to work, school etc, and are what is considered a “functional alcoholic,” you find yourself thinking about alcohol during your day, and your tolerance for alcohol continues to grow.

Middle alcoholic – At this stage, things begin to break down. Family or friends may question you about your drinking. You “think” you are managing, but you aren’t. Problems begin to arise at work, school, and with other obligations, as you have been absent, or neglected responsibilities. You may drink at inappropriate times such as while taking care of the children, or at work. You begin to drink earlier in the day, possibly all day, and later in the day. You may drink alone, and the craving for alcohol is very intense. Not drinking brings on withdrawal symptoms. At this stage, physical problems will begin to appear such as bloating, redness in the face, weight gain, gastritis, liver damage, hangovers and alcoholic blackouts. At this stage, you may make attempts to get help and try support groups or recovery programs.

Late alcoholic – At this stage, you are psychologically and physically addicted to alcohol. Alcohol has become the main event in your life, and you most likely drink all day. Severe withdrawal symptoms will be experienced when stopping alcohol consumption such as hallucinations, tremors, sweating, shaking. There are serious, life-threatening health complications that arise at this stage such as cirrhosis of the liver, brain, heart, mental health issues, even cancer. Mental health illnesses that already exist are exacerbated by this level of drinking, and intensive drinking can also bring on mental health problems such as delusions and psychosis. At this stage, you are very close to the end, and you either have to stop drinking or your body will shut down.

stages of alcoholism 2

Treatment Options

Don’t wait until it’s too late to seek help. There are many programs and support groups available to help you. As reported by the National Institute for Drug Abuse, alcoholism recovery rates are improved for those who participate in both aftercare programs and group sessions, with the recovery rate soaring to an impressive 90 percent for those individuals. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a well known 12 step program created to help alcoholics get and stay sober. No matter what stage you find yourself, or a loved one, you can benefit from some form of treatment. Treatment centers like The Outpatient Center provide multiple programs and plans to help you in your recovery. Treatment options for alcoholics include:

Detoxification: When an alcoholic stops drinking there can be significant and even life-threatening withdrawal symptoms. It is imperative for the health of you or a loved one that qualified medical professionals help oversee this process, and provide the support and medication needed to relieve some of these symptoms. Not everyone goes through withdrawal, but if you are in the later stages of alcoholism, you will have a detox period.

Behavioral/Counseling: It is one thing to detox and begin the process of removing alcohol from your system. It is another entirely to delve into the psychological root causes of what drove you to drink in the first place. Counseling is a necessary component of any successful alcohol recovery program. Changes in thinking and behavioral patterns, as well as developing skills to cope with life stressors and resist drug use will be necessary to maintain sobriety.

Support Groups: Alcoholic’s Anonymous (AA) twelve-step program is one of the most well-known alcohol recovery programs. Sharing stories, being paired with a sponsor and creating community are the hallmarks of their successful program. Support groups are also an integral part of being held accountable and maintaining sobriety once out of more formal outpatient care programs.

Get The Help You Or Your Loved One Need Today

If you believe you are an alcoholic, or that a loved one is an alcoholic, contact or give The Outpatient Center a call at (844)211-7944 today. We are South Florida’s trusted recovery center. Compassionate counselors are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and are standing by to help guide you to sobriety.

See our related blog on the Serious Signs of Alcoholism.