Recognizing the Stages of Alcoholism

Alcoholism is a disease that exhibits recognizable symptoms and stages. An individual could be in the early stages of alcoholism, where he or she is building a tolerance for more and more alcohol, or an individual can be further along in the relapse stage. While there are multiple theories and models when it comes to alcoholism, today we will discuss a specific disease model and theory that explains the Five stages of Alcoholism.

Stage one is considered the “Early Stage” or “Adaptive Stage.” During this stage, an individual is able to consume more and more alcohol and is building a tolerance. In addition, the person is able to function normally with few, if any side effects from the alcohol. Detection of the Early Stage can be difficult, as many individuals can consume substantial amounts of alcohol without becoming severely intoxicated, hung-over or having negative physical symptoms. This stage tends to have little to no effect on workplace habits and performance, and the individual would downplay or scoff at any mention that a drinking problem exists. Often times, the person just isn’t aware what is happening inside of their body during this stage and believes they able to function as they always have.

In the “Middle Stage” ofAlcoholism, it is difficult to accurately detect the jump point from stage one to two, though there are several differentiating characteristics. While in the first stage, the individual was building a tolerance, the second stage brings along withdrawal symptoms if the same amount of alcohol is not ingested. In addition, cravings begin to intensify during this stage, and the person will get a powerful urge to drink. This can eventually lead to an uncontrollable urge to drink. When loss of control does take place, the individual will often drink at various hours and places and fall outside of socially acceptable patterns of drinking. A frightening feature of this stage is when the individual begins to suffer from blackouts. During a blackout, the alcoholic can still function but will not have any recollection of what he or she did during that time. The brain either incorrectly stores the memory or did not store it at all. During this stage, the individual’s work performance will begin to suffer. There may also be evidence of behavioral problems, deterioration of grooming habits, financial issues, and a change in demeanor. 

The “Late Stage” is the third stage in this disease model. In this stage, the alcohol has brought toxicity to the body and serious damage is beginning to occur. Individuals in this stage may be drinking all of the time, show mental confusion and feel very ill. His or her mental condition can also be unpredictable. Serious medical conditions may occur at this point such as cirrhosis, pancreatitis, brain damage and malnutrition.

“Treating the Alcoholism” is the fourth stage. When someone is suffering from alcoholism, he or she usually cannot discontinue drinking on his or her own. Detoxification and treatment from an alcohol rehabilitation center can offer medical assistance, 24-hour care and programs to help the individual stop drinking. Medication can also be administered to help the person through the detox and withdrawal process.

The fifth stage in this model is the “Relapse Stage” and is an important aspect in treating alcoholism. For someone to return to drinking is not uncommon. Some people have intense cravings while others fail to change their lifestyle and fall back into negative patterns. Relapse should be taken as a sign that there are areas in one’s life that need attention and that more professional recovery resources should be utilized.

An alcohol and drug rehabilitation center will also focus on methods and tips for an individual to prevent relapse. Through group and one-on-one counseling, a person can learn more about their triggers and how certain lifestyles changes can help prevent a relapse. In addition, when the individual is finished with detox and treatment and will be returning home, there are numerous support groups and 12-step programs available nationwide.

If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.

About the Author

is a proud alumni member of WhiteSands Treatment. After living a life of chaos, destruction and constant let downs, Mark was able to make a complete turnaround that sparked a new way of life. He is serious about his recovery along with helping others. At WhiteSands Treatment, we offer support to you in your homes or when you are out living in your daily lives.