Alcoholism Stages


Alcoholism is a progressive disease that is described by various stages. Its progression may take more or less time depending on the person.

One individual may exhibit different physical symptoms or emotional responses than another. Although there may be slight variations, most who are involved with the care and treatment of alcoholics agree that alcoholism progresses in relatively predictable stages.

It may begin with social drinking and then proceeds through middle stages where symptoms and problems become more obvious. The end stages of alcoholism are marked by physiological dependence, debilitation, and loss of control.

Beginning Stages

ADD, Attention Deficit Disorder

Those who develop a drug or alcohol addiction often display other types of addictive behavior. As alcohol consumption begins, there is no alcoholic behavior observed. Alcohol consumption is typically one to two drinks daily. The body begins to develop a tolerance for alcohol, and the individual may be able to function with very little side effects. This is followed by high-risk use. He or she begins to develop the first signs of abuse. Non-social drinking becomes more frequent and the consumption increases. Drinking often results in poor choices that endanger the alcoholic and those around them.

Problematic Drinking

Alcohol consumption eventually becomes problematic. The alcoholic begins to experience the negative effects of their drinking. They may begin to miss work and experience health issues.

Alcoholics frequently suffer from impaired liver function and a higher risk of sexually transmitted diseases. They often have legal problems such as driving under the influence. Alcoholics are also prone to be involved in violent crimes. This is usually the point where family and friends begin to recognize there is a problem, and alcoholics begin to feel guilty about drinking. They normally start to hide their drinking. The individual may change locations where they drink to avoid people they know.

A Progressive Disease

During the later stages of alcoholism, the individual becomes dependent on alcohol and cravings that are out of control. They drink regularly to escape stress, and behavioral problems become worse. The alcoholic may begin to experience “blackouts” where they can’t remember anything that happened while they were drinking.

Abstaining from alcohol at this point typically leads to severe withdrawal symptoms. The individual is usually unwilling to discuss the problem and frequently lies about it. They undergo severe mood and behavioral changes and begin to avoid friends and family. Later-stage alcoholics often fail to follow through on commitments and have trouble holding down a job.

At this stage, it is important to seek professional help to avoid end-stage alcoholism. Northbound offers an alcohol treatment program in Orange County that puts individuals on a new, healthy path.

The Final Stages

During the end-stage of alcoholism, the individual is obsessed with drinking. They stay drunk for extended periods of time. They also become highly resentful of anything or anyone that interferes with their drinking.

They increasingly exhibit amoral behavior. The final stages of alcoholism are the deteriorating phase. The individual may be extremely ill and mentally confused. They sometimes exhibit tremors and hallucinations. Those suffering from end-stage alcoholism typically have severe physical and psychological problems due to damaged vital organs.

Common disorders found in alcoholics include cirrhosis of the liver, hepatitis, heart disease, brain damage, malnutrition, and respiratory infections. Many of the debilitating effects of alcoholism are reversible if the individual receives treatment. Otherwise, the alcoholic will die.

An alcoholic can opt to change the course of their life at any stage, and Northbound’s alcohol rehab center in Orange County is here to help. We offer a comfortable environment and specialized treatment programs to help patients on their way to recovery.

Get Treatment for Alcoholism at Northbound

Northbound provides a fully integrated alcohol treatment program in Orange County for overcoming alcoholism and co-occurring disorders. Our clinicians work with clients one-on-one and in group settings to address substance use and mental health challenges that impact recovery.

Clients receive the personalized care and treatment they need to make positive changes in their lives, reduce the risk for relapse, and learn how to truly thrive in recovery.

Article Reviewed by Paul Alexander

Paul AlexanderPaul Alexander is the founder and CEO of Northbound Treatment. He received his Certified Addiction Treatment Specialist training at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, CA, and was awarded Outstanding Alumni Service Award in 2002. Paul holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Criminology, Law and Society, Summa Cum Laude, from University of California, Irvine, and a Juris Doctorate degree from Loyola Law School of Los Angeles. He believes wholeheartedly in transformational leadership, organizational health and effective, fully integrated substance use disorder treatment.