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Alcohol addiction: The stages of alcoholism

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The stages of alcoholism: the path of addiction

Most adults don’t have to worry about moderate drinking. However, if alcohol intake becomes excessive, it can lead to addiction.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism TrustedSource, 17 million Americans have alcohol-related disorders. An additional 855,000 Americans between 12 and 17 have alcohol abuse disorders. Alcoholism doesn’t happen overnight. It is the result of long-term alcohol abuse.

You can recognize the symptoms and signs of each stage to help you seek treatment before your problem becomes dependence or addiction.

Stage 1: Occasional abuse or binge drinking

The first stage of alcoholism is a general experimentation with alcohol. These people may be unfamiliar with different types of alcohol and are likely to test their limits. This stage is typical in young adults.

They also often binge drink. They consume large quantities of alcohol, even though they don’t drink often. We define binge drinking as:

  • Men can consume five to six alcoholic beverages in less than two hours.
  • For women, at least four alcoholic drinks in two hours.

Binge drinkers often exceed this amount. Teens who drink heavily are at particular risk. Although you might believe binge drinking is safe if only done occasionally, this could be a false assumption.

Consuming large quantities of alcohol at once can lead to serious health problems, including death or coma. You may also become dependent on the effects of drinking, and these episodes will increase in frequency.

Stage 2: More drinking

When they drink more alcohol, they leave the experimental stage. So, for example, you may start drinking every weekend instead of drinking only occasionally.

These are just a few reasons why increased alcohol consumption could lead to increased drinking.

  • As an excuse to get together as friends
  • to alleviate stress
  • Out of boredom
  • To combat loneliness or sadness

Moderate drinking is not the same as regular alcohol consumption. It is more emotionally attached to alcohol. Moderate drinkers might have wine with their meals, while regular drinkers use alcohol to feel better. You become more dependent upon alcohol as you drink more.

Stage 3: Problem drinking

Problem drinking is the result of frequent, uncontrolled alcohol abuse. Although alcohol abuse can be problematic, “problem drinker” refers only to someone who begins to feel the effects of their habit.

You might feel more depressed or anxious. Heavy drinking can make you sick, but you don’t care as enjoying the effect. This stage is when many drinkers are more likely than others to drive drunk or have legal problems.

The problem of drinking also causes social changes. These include:

  • Relationship issues
  • Reduced social activity due to erratic behavior
  • Sudden changes in friendship
  • It is challenging to converse with strangers

Stage 4: Alcohol dependence

Two aspects of alcoholism are dependence and addiction. A person can be dependent on alcohol but not addicted.

After the problem drinking stage, dependency develops. You have an attachment to alcohol at this stage that takes over your daily routine. Although you are aware of the harmful effects of alcohol, you no longer have control over how much you drink.

You may also be considered alcohol dependent if you have a tolerance to alcohol. To get drunk or “buzzed,” you might need to consume more alcohol. Drinking more can have worse effects on your body.

A withdrawal is another sign of dependency. You may experience withdrawal symptoms as you get sober.

  • Hangover-related nausea is not the same as nausea
  • Body tremors
  • Sweat
  • Severe irritability
  • A racing heart
  • Trouble sleeping

Stage 5: Addiction, alcoholism

Addiction is the final stage of alcoholism. This stage is when you stop drinking for pleasure. Alcohol addiction is a need to drink for physical and psychological reasons.

Alcohol addiction is characterized by a physical craving for alcohol and a tendency to become inconsolable when they drink again. They might also be addicted to other drugs.

Addiction is characterized by compulsive behavior, and many people addicted to alcohol drink whenever they want.

What is the outlook?

Risky drinkers who don’t believe they have a problem are at the most significant risk. However, any stage of alcoholism can be problematic. Moderate drinking is safest, but it is not safe for everyone.

Early detection of alcohol problems can prevent addiction and dependence. Medical treatment may be required to detoxify the body and get a fresh start. Individual or group therapy can help deal with addiction.

It is more difficult to stop drinking the deeper you go into alcoholism. The long-term consequences of excessive drinking include:

  • liver damage
  • Heart disease
  • brain damage
  • malnutrition
  • mental health conditions, such as suicide risk, can lead to increased vulnerability.

If you suspect you may have a drinking problem, talk to the doctor.

Alcohol Use Disorder: What To Say and Do

It can be challenging to try and help a friend or loved one who has an alcohol abuse disorder. An alcoholic can become defensive when they are in active addiction. Do not confront them while they are intoxicated. 

Talk to them when they are sober. You should practice what you say. Do not guilt trip or assign blame. This is a condition. Use statements that begin with “I” to offer support, such as:

  • I see…
  • I feel …
  • I expect and hope that…
  • I will…
  • Because of…

Get involved. Get support for yourself, your family members, and others in the Hathaway Recovery rehabilitation family program. Attend an Al-Anon or Alateen meeting, or make an appointment to see a mental health professional. 

Set healthy boundaries for yourself. The person suffering from addiction must be open to receiving help.

Get Help for Alcoholism

It is possible to get professional help if you or someone you love has an alcohol addiction. Rehab can help people maintain sobriety, according to research.

Hathaway Recovery provides a customized treatment program that incorporates evidence-based therapies like behavioral and experiential therapies. Our holistic healing program will help you grow as a person and make it possible to create a new start in your life.

Your privacy and comfort are our top priorities. Our state-of-the-art luxury facilities will allow you to relax fully. In addition, the Hathaway Recovery Center’s professional, compassionate staff is always there to help you.

The center offers private rooms, personal attention, and effective treatment plans. The best specialists are part of our staff. Our mission is to Renew and Rebuild Lives.

If you have questions, please call our Admissions Department at (909-971-3333).

It is entirely confidential.

Do not miss this opportunity to make a difference in your life.

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  • Family Drug Education
  • Relapse Prevention Therapy
  • Counseling for grieving


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  • Hathaway Recovery is a very solid, very friendly place. My boyfriend decided to go here and has spent a significant amount of time at the recovery house. They are very good at bringing clients to meetings and on fun outings occasionally! Hathaway is committed to their clients’ recovery and their sobriety and to helping them in any way possible. They go above and beyond for the clients and I definitely would recommend considering Hathaway for your sobriety/recovery.

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