What Are the Stages of Alcoholism?
Yesterday, I drank because I was stressed about work. The day before that, I drank to forget about the bills I have to pay. Today, I’m drinking because I can’t shake the craving.
I know I have a problem with alcohol, but how bad has it really gotten? Is there help out there for people like me? Can I live a normal life? What if my alcoholism is past the point of no return?
There has to be someone, somewhere willing to help me.
Yes, help is out there. No matter how bad you think your alcoholism is, you can overcome it.
It’s no secret that alcohol use disorder, which is the medical term for alcoholism, has impacted the lives of millions across the country. It’s an issue we need to address head-on. While alcohol use disorder (AUD) can be treated, it is important to understand what stage your condition is in. This will be an important part of the recovery process.
Let’s take a look at the stages of AUD as well as treatment for alcoholism.
What Is Alcoholism?
According to the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health, alcoholism, also known as alcohol dependence or alcohol use disorder, is a disease that includes four symptoms:
- Craving: A strong need, or compulsion, to drink
- Loss of control: The inability to limit one’s drinking on any given occasion
- Physical dependence: Withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, sweating, shakiness, and anxiety, occur when alcohol use is stopped after a period of heavy drinking
- Tolerance: The need to drink greater amounts of alcohol in order to feel the effects of alcohol
Right now, 18 million Americans are battling AUD. The U.S. National Library of Medicine says you might be dealing with AUD if in the past year you have:
- Wanted to stop drinking but couldn’t
- Ended up drinking more or longer than you intended
- Felt strong urges to drink
- Cut back on activities you once enjoyed for alcohol
- Had to drink more to feel the effects of alcohol
- Found yourself in dangerous situations because of alcohol
- Kept drinking despite the negative effects alcohol has had on your health
- Spent large amounts of time recovering from drinking
- Continued drinking despite the negative effects alcohol has had on your relationships with family and friends
- Had trouble maintaining or finding employment due to alcohol
- Experienced withdrawal symptoms when you were not drinking
Typically, the more symptoms you have, the more serious your condition is.
The Stages of Alcoholism
In order to define the stages of alcoholism, we’ll refer to Elvin Morton Jellinek’s studies on the matter. Jellinek’s studies refer to four stages of alcoholism, which include the pre-alcoholic stage, the prodromal stage, the crucial stage, and the chronic stage.
The pre-alcoholic stage occurs when alcohol consumption is influenced by the social environment. Typically, you will seek out reasons to drink at this stage. While your drinking may seem typical to other people when you’re in this stage, drinking eventually becomes a way to handle things like stress. You may also become more tolerant to the effects of alcohol.
The next stage is the prodromal stage, which is when drinking is no longer just a way to socialize. It has now become a way to deal with real-world problems. At this stage, you may be drinking to the point of passing out, engaging in reckless activities, or hiding your drinking habits from others.
The third stage, which is the crucial stage, occurs when you start to lose control of your drinking habits. This also includes coming up with excuses as to why you need to drink, distancing yourself from others to drink, or drinking early in the morning. At this stage, seeking medical attention for excessive alcohol consumption is common.
The final stage is what’s known as the chronic stage. This occurs when you’ve lost control of your alcohol use. You may find there are certain times when you’re drunk for multiple days, you’re having strong withdrawal symptoms, or you develop a mental health disorder(s). At this stage, leaving alcohol behind can be life-saving.
At any rate, AUD is a serious condition and should be treated as such.
How Does Alcoholism Affect Your Health?
It’s no secret that alcohol can have negative effects on your health. It may get worse as time moves on.
You may be more at risk of developing health problems if you drink excessively. Excessive drinking is defined by both binge drinking and heavy drinking.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), binge drinking is the most common form of excessive drinking and is defined as consuming four or more drinks during a single occasion for women and five or more drinks during a single occasion for men.
Heavy drinking is defined as consuming eight or more drinks in a week for women and 15 or more drinks a week for men.
You should not drink alcohol at all if you are:
- Under the age of 21
- Driving or planning to drive
- Recovering from AUD
- Taking certain medications
- Dealing with certain medical conditions
In the short term, drinking too much can increase your chances of:
- Getting injured
- Finding yourself in dangerous situations
- Alcohol poisoning/overdose
- Miscarriage, stillbirth, or fetal alcohol syndrome
The long-term effects of drinking too much can include:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Liver disease
- Various cancers
- Mental health disorders
- Problems with family and friends
- Weakened immune system
- Poor school or work performance
You can lower your risk of developing these health problems by limiting yourself to moderate drinking.
A Look at Moderate Drinking
Moderate drinking can help prevent both negative health effects and AUD. If you do choose to drink, the CDC recommends limiting your alcohol intake to no more than two drinks a day if you’re a man and no more than one drink a day if you’re a woman.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provides a list of what one drink is equal to so you can follow the moderation guidelines. One drink is equal to:
- 12 ounces of beer
- 5 ounces of wine
- 1.5 ounces of liquor or spirits
Also, always keep in mind that if you don’t want to drink, do not feel pressured to do so.
The Benefits of Leaving Alcohol Behind
Whenever you quit drinking, you may notice improvements to your health.
It’s well known that alcohol can cause dehydration, which can wreak havoc on your skin. By being properly hydrated, you can help maintain your skin’s elasticity. Alcohol may contribute to other skin conditions and body tissue inflammation as well.
Another benefit is improved mental health. This is an important one. There are some ties between AUD and the worsening of mental health disorders. If you choose to leave alcohol behind, you may be able to better manage things like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Alcoholic drinks have calories, and we all know that those excess calories can lead to weight gain. Remember, your weight does not determine your self-worth or beauty, but maintaining a healthy weight can also be beneficial to your health. Along with the calories found in sweets such as cookies and cupcakes, alcohol calories are empty calories, which means they have no benefit to your health.
Leaving alcohol behind can also lower the risk of some cancers. The more heavily you drink, the more at risk you are for mouth and throat cancers, liver cancer, rectal cancer, breast cancer, esophageal cancer, and more.
Last, but certainly not least, you can prevent damage to your liver. Your liver is an important organ in your body. You want to keep it as healthy as possible. Serious conditions like cirrhosis of the liver are possible if you continue to drink excessively.
If you find that alcohol is causing nothing but problems in your life, it’s time to make it a beverage of the past. You don’t need it, and a life without it is possible. There are plenty of benefits of quitting drinking; these are just a few of them. Your health is worth more than alcohol.
Reaching Out for Help
Everybody has their own story, and each story is unique. Your reasons for drinking may be different from someone else’s, and that’s OK. You, too, can be treated.
There’s more to life than alcohol, and by leaving it behind, you can live a life of fulfillment. There is no shame in asking for help. It does not make you weak. In fact, it takes strength to admit that you have a problem you need to address.
At the end of the day, each of us has something we need to work on. AUD doesn’t make you any less of a human being. You are important. You are cared for. You are loved.
There is a light at the end of the tunnel. Even if you feel like you’re at the darkest point in your life, remember that. Right here, right now, you can make the choice to make a change. It may not be easy, and it may take some time, but it is worth it.
The Path to a Better Life
Pathways Recovery provides three levels of addiction treatment solutions for those battling alcohol use disorder, including a detox center, residential treatment, and intensive outpatient treatment.
The facility is designed to provide the best possible experience for clients as they work toward recovery. Pathways Recovery staff will work tirelessly to make sure each client is safe and well taken care of.
The detox center provides medically assisted detoxification for those who need it. Our clients will be supported through this entire process with a qualified team available to provide supervision for safety and peace of mind.
After the detox process, clients will enter the residential program to begin the healing process. Pathways Recovery treatment programs are tailored to the unique needs of the client.
Therapy sessions are designed to get to the root cause of addiction, psychiatry is used to focus on undiagnosed mental health disorders, and medication-assisted treatment is available if the client needs it.
The third and final part of the process is intensive outpatient treatment, which is perfect for clients transitioning from their residential stay. With three weekly group sessions available, clients can remain connected to the recovery process.
Call Pathways Recovery Near Sacramento Today
Pathways Recovery is Northern California’s finest men-only addiction treatment center. To learn more about our program and how we can help you, call 916-735-8377.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is excessive drinking?
Excessive drinking is defined by both binge drinking and heavy drinking. Binge drinking is the most common form of excessive drinking and is defined as consuming four or more drinks during a single occasion for women and five or more drinks during a single occasion for men. Heavy drinking is defined as consuming eight or more drinks in a week for women and 15 or more drinks a week for men.
What is the last stage of alcoholism?
The final stage of alcoholism is known as the chronic stage. This stage occurs when you’ve lost control of your alcohol intake. You may find there are certain times when you’re drunk for multiple days, you’re experiencing strong withdrawal symptoms, or you develop a mental health disorder(s). Leaving alcohol behind at this stage can be life-saving.
What are the signs of alcoholism?
Alcoholism is typically identified by cravings for alcohol, loss of control when it comes to drinking, physical dependence on alcohol, and building up a tolerance to alcohol. Alcoholism is also known as alcohol use disorder.