Recognizing the stages and transitions of alcoholism is extremely helpful when trying to decide what the best course of action for treatment may be. As such, there are four main categories of alcoholism, with each stage becoming a little more apparent and destructive than the last. These stages are: pre-alcoholic, early alcoholic, middle alcoholic, and late alcoholic. If someone shows signs of any of these stages help should be sought immediately.

The Stages of Alcoholism

Stage One: The Pre-Alcoholic 

This stage can be fairly hard to spot, as there is little evidence of there being a problem with drinking. This drinking is typically seen as primarily social and as a means to connect with others and have fun. However, as time progresses, the drinker will develop a tolerance to alcohol as they feel the need to drink increasingly more alcohol in order to feel the same effects. Eventually, this stage will need large amounts of alcohol to feel satisfied, in which an addiction will easily play a role in the drinker’s life. In order to decide if you are on the road to pre-alcoholism, ask yourself if you are drinking to cope or make yourself feel better or if you feel your drinking is appropriate (not feeling the urge to become inebriated) when around other people.

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If you find it difficult to manage the amount of alcohol you drink or are drinking to reduce anxiety or ignore any other difficult emotions then you may be in the pre-alcoholic stage. Furthermore, wanting to drink by yourself is another key indicator that you may be on the path to alcoholism. If you feel you are in this stage of alcoholism, it is a great time to seek help before it becomes more difficult to break the chains of addiction.

Stage Two: The Early Alcoholic

If you have suffered from an alcohol-related black out, then you are most likely in the early alcoholic stage. During this stage, the person drinking will find it more and more difficult to resist alcohol and may find themselves lying to friends or family about their drinking or hiding their drinks to avoid questions. As such, the tolerance to alcohol in this stage becomes increasingly apparent, as the drinker needs more alcohol to “feel functional”. Additionally, the early alcoholic in stage two is usually becoming obsessed with thoughts about alcohol.

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Stage Three: The Middle Alcoholic

During stage three of alcoholism, the drinking behavior and patterns oftentimes becomes apparent to friends and family. This is usually when others notice that your drinking is abnormal and excessive and others begin to worry. A middle alcoholic may even be missing work or social obligations because of drinking or may start drinking during inappropriate times, like when driving or taking care of children. Behavior changes, such as irritability or mood swings, or body changes, such as facial redness, stomach bloating, weight gain or weight loss may become evident to others in this stage. If you feel they are in this stage, it is imperative that you seek the help of a trained medical professional or attend an inpatient drug rehab so that you can break the chains of alcoholism before it’s too late. 

Stage Four: The Late Alcoholic 

This stage of alcoholism is the most apparent out of all stages, as the alcoholism has now progressed to affecting all areas of the drinker’s life. Drinking has now taken center stage and the drinker is now living in the devastating effects that drinking can have on one’s well-being. As such, it is not uncommon for the drinker to lose their job, if they haven’t already, during this stage. Furthermore, health conditions may start to rise, such as cirrhosis of the liver or even dementia, as the long-term alcoholic continues to binge on alcohol day in and day out. Attempts to stop drinking on one’s one usually prove to be futile and quite often dangerous since withdrawal symptoms are often intense in this stage. As such, anyone in this stage needs professional help to break the chains of alcoholism in their life. 

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The Withdrawal Stages of Alcoholism

Withdrawal symptoms experienced by someone detoxing off alcohol depends on a variety of factors, such as: weight, age, genetics, and the level of dependency. As such, if someone is highly dependent on alcohol and they suddenly stop drinking they may experience

  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Tremors
  • Agitation
  • Nausea/vomiting/upset stomach
  • Seizures

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While there is quite variance on when each, unique person experiences withdrawal, a typical withdrawal timeline includes:

  • Stage 1 (around 6-12 hours after last drink): mild symptoms that may include headache, insomnia, anxiety, hand tremor, gastrointestinal issues, heart palpitations
  • Stage 2 (around 1-3 days after last drink): this stage may include stage 1 symptoms with an additional increase to blood pressure and heart rate, confusion, mild hyperthermia, and rapid abnormal breathing. Around 24 hours after the last drink, some people may experience visual, auditory, or tactile hallucinations. Within 24-72 hours, many of these symptoms may begin to level off, however, the risk of a seizure is the highest from 24-48 hours after the last drink.
  • Stage 3 (around a week after last drink): this stage may also include the previous stages, however, may also include visual or auditory hallucinations, seizures, disorentiation, and impaired attention. 

Depending on the level of alcoholism severity, a person may experience withdrawal related symptoms like sleep disturbances or changes in mood that can last for months. However, appropriately detoxing with the help of a medical professional or drug rehab facility oftentimes mitigates the risk of these conditions lasting long-term.

How to Find Help When Caught in One of the Stages of Alcoholism

Detoxing off alcohol by yourself, especially if you are in one of the later stages of alcoholism, can be quite dangerous and risky. Therefore, it is essential that you seek help either through the guidance of a medical professional or an intensive outpatient/inpatient drug treatment center. This will ensure that your detox is conducted in a safe and supportive environment, mitigating your chances of having intense withdrawal symptoms. 

Getting the help you need is imperative in breaking the chains of alcoholism in its tracks. You deserve the opportunity to get well and have a fulfilling future. Reach out today and get on the path to a better you immediately.

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