What Are the Three Stages of Alcoholism?
Unlike some substances that can become highly addictive immediately, such as opiates, alcoholism encroaches systematically over time. No one starts off as a chronic, severe alcoholic. The fact is, that some individuals can abuse alcohol for many years, as a high functioning alcohol, before the drinking finally crosses the line and becomes a destructive force. Other people can become addicted to alcohol fairly quickly, maybe within a year or two of heavy consumption, and reach that crisis point even as early as one’s mid-twenties. It is still not understood why such a disparity exists in terms of the length of time between each stages of alcoholism.
Early Stage Alcoholism
Early stage, or mild alcohol use disorder, is diagnosed when two or three of the eleven factors are answered in the affirmative. This stage features occasional binge drinking, usually involving 18-25 year old males. Most will outgrow this dangerous activity, but some will not and will move on to the next level of alcohol use disorder.
Chronic alcoholism, or a moderate alcohol use disorder, is diagnosed when 4 or 5 of the eleven factors are present. This stage features a habitual use of alcohol, often over a period of years. This stage may involve a psychological component, such as a co-occurring mood disorder or other emotional need to self-medicate. In this stage, individuals often drink in isolation and begin to withdraw socially. This stage reveals negative consequences due to chronic use of or reliance on alcohol, such as a job loss or relationship problems.
End Stage Alcoholism
End stage alcoholism, or severe alcohol use disorder, is diagnosed when six or more of the factors are present, indicating both psychological and physical dependence has taken root. This stage features adverse health effects caused by the disease, possibly including depression, pancreatitis, cirrhosis of the liver, anemia, nerve damage, high blood pressure, dementia, or cancer. The drinking is now controlling the person, and serious negative consequences have compounded, such as a DUI, divorce, loss of a job, impairments in daily functioning, and suicidal thoughts or attempts.
Severe Alcoholism Physical Symptoms
Severe alcoholism physical symptoms include: