End-Stage Alcoholism – Alcoholism is a common chronic disease that affects over 18 million adults in the United States alone. Like all diseases, there are different stages. When a person reaches end-stage alcoholism, he or she has come to a point that is far different from earlier stages.
During the initial stages of the disease, the alcoholic drinks excessively, and in between drinking episodes, they experience hangovers like everyone else. During end-stage alcoholism, however, addiction has complete control over the person, and drinking impulses are left unrestrained.
Stages of Alcoholism
There are four major stages of alcoholism – pre-alcoholism, early alcoholism, middle alcoholism, and late alcoholism (also known as end-stage alcoholism).
Stage One: Pre-Alcoholism
During the pre-alcoholism stage, there is scant evidence of a drinking problem, and much of the behavior during this stage would look normal to an outsider. Drinking has a primarily social function at the beginning of this stage, but as things progress, drinking is used more and more often as a means to reduce stress.
The main physical characteristic of this stage is that the person begins to develop a tolerance, meaning he or she can drink ever larger amounts of alcohol while continuing to function. Eventually, it takes a significant amount of alcohol to result in intoxication.
Stage Two: Early-Stage Alcoholism
Early-stage alcoholism marks the beginning of the person’s chronic alcohol consumption. The disease also begins to feed itself, because unlike most other diseases, the alcoholic finds the experience to be positive rather than negative. Externally, the alcoholic does not seem to be sick, and they appear to be relatively normal to those around them except for they are drinking a bit more.
Early-stage alcoholics typically have a high tolerance for alcohol and go unnoticed by many around them. When most people drink to their level of tolerance, they begin to exhibit the signs of being inebriated. Those signs include problems with speech and impaired motor skills, often marked by a loss of balance or coordination.
When social drinkers move into early-stage alcoholism, their tolerance begins to increase. This can allow them to overcome some of these signs that casual drinkers present. They may become able to hold conversations while intoxicated without slurring or having difficulty with coordination or motor skills.
Counterintuitively, the alcoholic begins to feel that they function better while under the influence because they only deal with the adverse effects when they quit drinking. The early stage alcoholic adjusts their drinking behavior as needed, and this often goes unrecognized.
As time passes by, however, assuming they maintain or increase their alcohol use, their body becomes progressively dependent on alcohol as the cells in their body begin to require it to function normally. Once the early stage progresses far enough, the disease reaches a tipping point where it advances into the middle stage of alcoholism.
Stage Three: Middle-Stage Alcoholism
In the middle stage of alcoholism, alcoholic behaviors manifest. Signs that there is a serious issue usually become evident to friends and family members. The person may begin missing work or social gatherings due to drinking or recovering from hangovers. He or she might drink at dangerous or inappropriate times, such as when caring for children, while driving, or at work.
The person may become increasingly irritable and argumentative. He or she may develop facial redness, bloating, sluggishness, and experience weight loss or weight gain. In this stage, the person might make several attempts to quit drinking, seek professional treatment, and join support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous.
During middle-stage alcoholism, organs in the body are actively being damaged, and this problem is only going to get worse. The person is really starting to feel the negative effects that his or her drinking has had on their body. The pleasant effects of the next drink often serve to help the person forget the unpleasant effects of the last drinking episode, and this cycle repeats daily.
When an adequate level of alcohol isn’t present in the person’s system, they feel terrible, both physically and mentally. Only after they have been drinking do they feel well again. As the alcoholism advances, the cells in the body grow more and more resistant to alcohol’s effects, and tolerance continues to increase.
Visible signs that someone is in the grip of alcoholism are apparent. The individual begins to lose the ability to refrain from drinking due to the strong physiological compulsions their body produces to consume alcohol. When they do try to quit drinking, they experience highly unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, including nausea, tremors, and irritability.
Common middle-stage alcoholism behaviors also include the following:
- Habitual drinking in non-social settings
- Strained interpersonal relationships
- A reduction in social activity
- Erratic behavior
- Withdrawal symptoms when not consuming alcohol
Stage Four: Late- or End-Stage Alcoholism
Late- or end-stage alcoholism is full-blown addiction that requires alcohol detox and comprehensive, long-term treatment for recovery. The person suffering now spends the majority of their time in service to the disease by drinking.
In this last stage, the person experiences both physical and mental health issues. Malnutrition may be present, and their physical condition is noticeably weakened. The addict no longer cares about the damage the disease is causing them or the many adverse consequences that occur as a result. At this point, the alcoholic’s mind and body are deteriorating at an accelerated rate.
Weakened cells are impaired in their ability to create bone, tissue, and blood as a healthy system normally would. Compounding upon the body’s challenges is that the cells lack the capability to repair themselves properly. The liver works overtime to gather nutrients and supply them to the body.
Nutritional deficiencies produce mental health issues including emotional instability, decreased alertness and mental confusion. End-stage alcoholics often develop liver, heart, respiratory and gastrointestinal disorders. The list of conditions is extensive, and includes, but is not limited to the following:
- Heart disease
- Alcoholic hepatitis or liver cirrhosis
- Increased risk of some cancers
- Chronic bronchitis
Is Recovery from End Stage Alcoholism Possible?
Importantly, end-stage alcoholism is not like other end-stage diseases in that it’s not an automatic death sentence. But, the longer it continues, the greater the chance that a person will indeed die from causes or complications related to alcohol use.
Alcoholism’s progression is relative to the challenges of long-term sobriety, but recovery is possible at any stage. There are no quick fixes to addiction or disease, and the safest course of action is to seek treatment in a secure environment catered to each patient’s individual needs. This treatment should employ a holistic treatment approach that includes psychotherapy, counseling, group support, and aftercare planning.
We encourage you to learn more about our approach to health and well-being during drug or alcohol treatment and to seek help immediately, especially if end-stage alcoholism is upon you. If you are reading this, you probably already know that alcoholism is a major problem in your life or the life of a loved one.
You know that more alcohol is not the way to restore your sanity. You don’t need temporary relief – you need complete healing. You don’t have to feel afraid, ashamed, or alone anymore.
Contact us today and discover how we can help you reclaim your life and begin to experience the happiness and harmony you deserve!