Five Stages of Alcoholism: The Progression of the Disease

Five Stages of Alcoholism: The Progression of the Disease
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Alcohol addiction does not spring up out of the blue. It arises from prolonged alcohol abuse. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, approximately 17 million adult Americans suffer alcohol use disorder.  An alarming 855,000 Americans between 12 to 17 years old suffer alcohol addiction.

Men develop alcohol use disorder twice as likely as women. Approximately 17 million adults suffered this disorder. Out of the total number, 11.2 million were men and 5.7 million were women.

Drinking Responsibly

 In the United States, experts recommend that men should consume no more than 2 alcoholic drinks in a day or 14 drinks per week. For women, no more than 7 alcoholic drinks per week.

 Recognizing the signs and symptoms at an early stage is crucial before the problem develops into alcohol addiction. In each stage can help someone distinguishing the different implication of alcohol abuse.

 To distinguish a progressive alcohol abuse disorder, here are the four common symptoms:

  •    unproductive at school or at work because of alcohol intake
  •    continued drinking despite the negative effects of alcohol
  •    drinking even in dangerous situations
  •    more alcohol intake to have the same effect


Early Sign of Alcohol Abuse

 Q: What is the usual sign of this stage?

A: Random abuse of alcohol, binge drinking and experimentation best describe the people in this stage.

 Stage 1: Experimentation and binge drinking

 In this first stage of alcohol abuse, people commonly get an initial introduction to alcohol. They test different types and various forms of the substance. People in this stage usually test their limits. Also, young adults generally fall under this experimental stage. Some may think it is safe to occasionally drink, however it could eventually lead to heavy drinking patterns.

These experimental drinkers may not drink alcohol consistently but if they do, they consume large quantities of alcohol. The occasion is referred to as binge drinking.

 The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines binge drinking as constant alcohol consumption within two hours.

 Binge drinking qualities include:

  •    Men

At least 5 alcohol drinks within two hours


  •    Women

At least four alcoholic drinks within two hours

These drinking sessions usually take place in a social event, especially in the younger age group. As a way of partying, they binge drink which increased their chance of developing alcoholism. Furthermore, drinking large servings of alcohol even occasionally can lead to coma even and death.


Stage 2: Increased Alcohol consumption

 Q: What is the initial sign of drinkers in this stage?

A: The drinker begins to experience the harmful side effects of the substance.

 The occasional drinking session can gradually turn into more frequently. Several reasons play a factor why people increased their alcohol intake. These are:

  •    as an excuse to see/ hang out with friends
  •    to relieve stress
  •    boredom
  •    to fight unhappiness

Several types of rsearch reveal that certain factors also affect alcoholism.


Other reason for drinking alcohol:

 Social Factor

Living or growing up with relatives with alcohol abuse disorders can dispose the person to turn to alcohol as well. They grew up where depression or conflict is part of their daily lives.

 Interconnected mental disorder

Some people who suffer alcoholism are interconnected with mental disorders. They consume alcohol to relieve some of their psychiatric problems.

 Alcohol exposure

Aside from genetic and environmental factors, a number of people who drink alcohol at any given time put them at danger for acquiring alcoholism.

 The regular alcohol consumption is considered as moderate drinking. For drinkers, they already built an emotional attachment to alcohol.  As they continue, they become more dependent and have a higher risk of developing alcoholism.




Middle Stage of Alcoholism


Stage 3: Problem drinking

Q: What are the usual effects of alcohol in this stage?

A: Drinkers experience a sudden shift in their personalities and behaviors.


After increasing alcohol intake, it will progress to uncontrollable alcohol abuse. In any form at any stage, alcohol abuse will cause problems. However, the label “problem drinker” refers to a person who begins to experience the negative effects of alcohol.


The drinker may experience feelings of depresses, anxiety and erratic sleeping pattern. Drinkers often neglect the harmful effects of heavy drinking. As a result, they drink more alcohol which leads to legal problems.


Some of the obvious signs at this stage include:

  •    relationship problems
  •    decreased activity because of terrible behavior
  •    the sudden shift in friends
  •    trouble engaging with strangers


Stage 4: Alcohol dependence


Q: What does alcohol dependence mean?

A:  The drinker solely depends on drinking alcohol but not yet addicted to the substance.


Alcohol dependence means that the drinking problem has already escalated. It became to a point that they rely on alcohol to function normally. Heavy drinkers recognize the adverse side effects of the alcohol but choose to ignore it. They let their cravings dictate their daily routine and have no plans of stopping anytime soon. Drinkers under this category may depend on alcohol but still not addicted to it.


Alcohol dependency may experience one or more of these symptoms:

  •    unsuccessful attempts to stop drinking
  •    trying to control alcohol intake but unable to
  •    needing more alcohol consumption to get the same effect
  •    experiencing or having withdrawal symptoms whenever attempting to quit
  •    spending more time to drink or recovering from hung overs
  •    giving out previously enjoyed activities just to drink
  •    continuing to drink despite the adverse effects of alcohol


There are two main characteristics of physical dependence.

  •    One, the body will develop tolerance because of prolonged alcohol intake. As the tolerance increases the need to consume alcohol also increases.


  •    Two, the body becomes used to alcohol in its system, that when the drinker stops, it will cause withdrawal symptoms. Heavy drinkers will then continue to drink just to avoid having these symptoms.


Withdrawal symptoms occur when the drinker abruptly stop taking the substance. In some instances, drinkers will not stop taking alcohol just to avoid these symptoms. These include:

  •    nausea
  •    chills
  •    sweating
  •    severe irritability
  •    erratic heartbeat
  •    trouble sleeping/ insomnia


The End Stage of Alcoholism


In 2009, at least 25,000 deaths occurred because of alcohol related incidence. The total deaths exclude accidents and homicide where alcohol may have played a factor.

Stage 5: Addiction


Q:  What does addiction look like?

A: A person already prioritizes alcohol over his life. They let alcohol commands their daily lives; it is the first thing they think about upon waking up.


Addiction is the final stage of alcoholism. Drinkers no longer care about the effects or their disposition in life. At this stage, the physical and psychological need to drink is apparent.

Compulsive behaviors are obvious at this stage. Drinkers who develop alcohol addiction often consume alcohol whenever and wherever they want. Most often, drinkers may also develop drug abuse at this stage.


In this end stage, drinkers think they need to drink to live, rather than drink to live. Furthermore, drinkers experience all serious complications of alcoholism.



Serious health complications of Alcoholism include:

  •    Chronic diseases such as liver and pancreatitis
  •    Different cancers, including mouth, throat, and esophagus
  •    Psychological disorders.
  •    Motor vehicle-related injuries
  •    Violence resulting in child abuse, homicide, and suicide.



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Five Stages of Alcoholism: The Progression of the Disease
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