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Many people are under the misconception that alcoholism happens as some sort of solitary event; as though it is something that just happens, or was already “destined” to happen. This simply isn’t true. There are stages of alcoholism. It is perhaps best to think of alcoholism as a process rather than an occurrence. Now, the good news is that, as stages, alcoholism can be detected earlier and thus treated earlier as well.

The Stages of Alcoholism: The Prevalence of Alcoholism

The 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) found that “29.5 million people ages 12 and older (10.6% in this age group) had AUD [alcohol use disorder, also referred to as alcoholism] in the past year.” This is no insignificant number, and it also means that alcoholism remains the number most prevalent substance use disorder (SUD) in the U.S.

Whether it is because alcohol remains the most accessible harmful substance, or because it is still portrayed as exciting and suave in marketing, alcoholism remains a constant presence in society. Furthermore, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), “It is estimated that more than 140,000 people (approximately 97,000 men and 43,000 women) die from alcohol-related causes annually, making alcohol the fourth-leading preventable cause of death in the United States behind tobacco, poor diet and physical inactivity, and illegal drugs.” 

These back-to-back statistics make understanding the stages of alcoholism more pivotal than ever. Catching alcoholism in the early stages can mean the difference between short-term side effects and long-term consequences.

Understanding the Various Stages of Alcoholism

While there are some variations on the stages of alcoholism, the consensus by many in the addiction and recovery industry is that there are four stages, which include:

#1. Pre-alcoholism stage

#2. Early alcoholism stage

#3. Chronic alcoholism stage

#4. End-stage alcoholism

The primary difference in these stages is the severity of the disease. However, just because one stage is less severe than the next does not mean that it should be taken less seriously. In fact, taking the pre-alcoholism stage seriously and getting help early is an ideal outcome. This only happens if each stage gets the type of attention that it requires.

Understanding the Pre-Alcoholism Stage

The pre-alcoholism stage might sound strange. After all, how can a stage of something happen before it even begins? The answer is that this stage exists because this is where the drinking begins and ultimately where the alcoholism manifests (if it is to do so).

However, during this stage, there is very little evidence that something is amiss. There are also very few consequences (except for a tolerable hangover perhaps). Yet, this is also the stage when drinking can become more like a coping mechanism for stress and anxiety, which can be masked as “a hard day at work, or school.”

Understanding the Early Alcoholism Stage

The next stage is the early alcoholism stage. This is where a pattern of alcohol abuse begins. Also, this can be called the “slippery slope” stage.

This is also where people begin to find excuses to drink, as well as where they begin to find excuses to justify their behaviors while they drink. It is also where consequences, such as issues with relationships, or problems at school or work, start to show up. 

Understanding the Chronic Alcoholism Stage

The chronic alcoholism stage is when serious consequences begin to manifest, and if things haven’t started to go downhill already, they most likely will begin to do so soon. This is also when commonly understood alcoholic behavior starts to show up.

These are behaviors such as drinking upon waking up, drinking throughout the day, “blacking out,” and not being able to stop once one starts drinking. This is also when serious health consequences may begin to show up such as liver and kidney problems, and issues with cognitive thinking.

Understanding End-Stage Alcoholism

When it comes to the stages of alcoholism, end-stage alcoholism is the most severe and is where the alcohol dependence is so strong that being without it can quite literally be deadly. This is the stage where all control over one’s drinking goes out the window.

Also, this is the end of the road when it comes to getting help. Alcoholism is a chronic disease, and without professional intervention, it will only get worse. This stage represents “worse.” Therefore, it is highly recommended that if alcoholism is caught at this stage, that professional medical help be sought as soon as possible.

Treating All Stages of Alcoholism at The Phoenix Recovery Center

Here at The Phoenix Recovery Center, we understand the stages of alcoholism, as well as the dangers associated with them. We also understand that no matter how severe a stage of alcoholism gets, there is always hope.

If you feel like you or a loved one is struggling with alcoholism (at any stage), we can help get you the appropriate addiction and mental health care that you need. For more information on the stages of alcoholism, and how alcoholism can best be treated, please reach out to The Phoenix Recovery Center today at (801) 438-3185.

The Phoenix Recovery Center
489 W. South Jordan Pkwy
Suite 400
South Jordan, UT