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The 4 Stages of Alcoholism

A person experiencing the stages of alcoholism

Because of the popularity and social expectation of drinking in our society, it can be hard to see when someone has a drinking problem at first. Unfortunately, by the time it becomes apparent, physical dependence and addiction are likely severe. Woodland Recovery Center can help you better understand the stages of alcoholism. Call us today at 662.222.2989 for information about Mississippi alcohol addiction treatment and how we can help you, or a loved one break the cycle of alcohol use disorder.

The Stages of Alcoholism

The basis for our understanding of how alcohol addiction can progress was developed by an American scientist named E. Morton Jellinek. In 1952, he outlined the four stages of alcoholism as it progresses:

  1. The Pre-Alcoholic Stage
  2. Early-Stage Alcoholism
  3. The Middle Alcoholic Stage
  4. End-Stage Alcoholism

Stage 1: The Pre-Alcoholic Stage

Identifying the first stage of alcohol addiction in oneself or a loved one can be challenging. At this point, drinking habits may not yet negatively impact daily life. The danger lies in how alcohol affects our brains, triggering the release of neurotransmitters like glutamate, dopamine, and GABA that create feelings of excitement, pleasure, and relaxation. With time, the brain becomes reliant on alcohol to release these chemicals, leading to physical dependence and potentially progressing to the next stage of addiction.

During this stage, alcohol may be consumed to:

  • Relax
  • Feel more comfortable in social situations
  • Aid sleep

It can be difficult to notice excessive drinking, as the person may always have a drink at social gatherings. If alcohol becomes the go-to coping mechanism for everyday stresses, it could indicate the first stage of addiction.

Stage 2: Early-Stage Alcoholism

The next stage of alcohol addiction involves binge drinking and blackouts. In some cases, these behaviors are experimental, especially among teens and young adults. However, they can also indicate a negative progression of alcohol misuse. While not necessarily a daily occurrence, a person in this stage tends to engage in social activities centered around drinking. Increased alcohol consumption raises the risk of brain and body adjustments, potentially leading to AUD.

Binge drinking is defined as consuming five or more standard alcoholic drinks in two hours for males, or four or more for females. It’s important to note that effects may vary due to individual body size. Blackouts occur when alcohol temporarily impairs short-term memory creation. Another red flag for deeper alcohol addiction is an enjoyment of getting drunk quickly, sometimes joked about. This stage is more noticeable than the pre-alcoholic stage, exhibiting clear behaviors that raise legitimate concern about unhealthy drinking habits.

Stage 3: The Middle Alcoholic Stage

In this stage of alcohol addiction, a person’s drinking habits become evident to those close to them. Some individuals may hide or lie about their alcohol consumption. This stage is marked by prioritizing drinking over relationships, career, or education. Even those skilled in deception begin to experience negative consequences in these important areas of life.

Signs of progression to this stage include risky behavior like drunk driving or drinking while at work or fulfilling home duties. Tolerance to alcohol increases, leading to the need for more alcohol to achieve desired effects. Physical signs such as weight gain, shaking, and skin flushing may also be present. Treatment at this stage can be most effective in reversing the impacts of drinking through healthy lifestyle changes.

Stage 4: End-Stage Alcoholism

In stage four, the long-term consequences of a person’s heavy drinking are impossible to hide. They may have tried to enter treatment or stop drinking on their own with limited or no success. Drinking alcohol becomes an activity that takes up every waking hour as priorities shift to make alcohol the number one priority in the person’s life.

Often, people experiencing end-stage alcoholism are stuck in a negative cycle of drinking that has become impossible to quit on their own. They’re also most likely having health consequences that could include liver damage and other alcohol-related conditions. A person who has reached end-stage alcohol addiction must seek the help of trained professionals as soon as possible, as their drinking habits are likely to cause very serious health problems or even death.

Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder at Woodland Recovery Center Starts with Detox

Alcohol withdrawal can be particularly dangerous if not done under the close supervision of compassionate medical professionals. At Woodland Recovery Center, before being cleared for alcohol rehab, patients undergo a supervised detox to ensure the alcohol and its toxins are out of their system. We address their physical dependence on alcohol and help to manage uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms that start when drinking is reduced or stopped. Specialized medications may be used in this phase of care.

Our goal is to make this process as comfortable as possible as you prepare to build a foundation for lasting success in recovery. Once your withdrawal symptoms have stopped, you’ll transition into the rehab phase of treatment, where we focus on the underlying psychological conditions that influence your alcohol addiction. We’ll help to retrain your brain and body to function normally without alcohol. You’ll also learn how to manage cravings and triggers that can cause relapse.

Find Effective Alcohol Addiction Treatment at Woodland Recovery Center

The stages of alcoholism indicate the need for treatment. At Woodland Recovery Center, we’re committed to giving you or your loved one the treatment they deserve for alcohol use disorder. We understand how difficult it can be to detox from alcohol, which is why we offer alcoholism rehab that starts with medically supported detox. Call 662.222.2989 or fill out our online form to begin your journey to recovery today.