Stages of Alcoholism: Recognising the Issue

Alcoholism is an illness that leads to a host of health problems as well as deaths every year in the UK. Those who abuse alcohol are at risk of developing alcoholism, but this is not something that happens overnight. In fact, alcoholism is a progressive illness that occurs gradually over time. There are a number of stages of alcoholism that occur before a person gets to the point where he or she feels a total lack of control over drinking. While most people can drink alcohol in moderation, those who are struggling to control their drinking are on the path to addiction.

Early Stages of Alcoholism

The early stages of alcoholism usually begin with binge drinking and an increased tolerance to the effects of the drug. Those who binge drink will not typically drink every day, but they may drink heavily every weekend. This is just as dangerous as those who are drinking every day, and it can also lead to alcoholism. In the early stage of alcohol abuse, the drinker may not spend most of his or her time thinking about drinking. The individual does not arrange every activity around alcohol, but when he/she does drink, it is done to get drunk.

Binge drinkers may find that the more they drink, the more alcohol they need to get to the point where they are intoxicated. It’s hard to recognise alcoholism in its earliest stage because it causes subtle changes in the brain. However, the more a person drinks, the more impact it has on the body. As a person continues to abuse alcohol, the body will adapt to the presence of this toxic substance until it comes to expect it.

Drinking to feel better is another element of early stage alcoholism. Many people drink a glass of wine after work as a way to unwind after a hard day at the office. While there is nothing wrong with this, it does become a problem when people begin to rely on alcohol every time they feel a little bit stressed out. Some will start to depend on alcohol as a coping mechanism and will reach for it to deal with any negative emotion that they feel.

Middle Stage Alcoholism

Once an individual begins to increase the amount of alcohol he or she is consuming without even realising, they are straying into middle stage alcoholism. Instead of one glass of wine after work, it may become two and, before long, two glasses become a whole bottle. Moderate drinking can quickly escalate to habitual drinking. Some people will find that they automatically reach for alcohol when they sit down in the evening without even thinking about it. They are not consciously deciding to have a drink; it just becomes something that they do.

Alcoholism is different to alcohol abuse in terms of the lack of control a person has over his or her drinking. As a person begins to drink more alcohol, he/she will build up a tolerance, which means this person will need more alcohol to achieve the desired effect. It may get to the stage where he/she feels compelled to drink and will lose control over their ability to stop drinking once they have started.

At this stage, alcohol begins to have a negative impact on the life of the person. It may lead to problems at home or work. A physical dependence on alcohol may result in various mental or physical health problems. The individual could begin to spend time away from friends or family in favour of drinking, and he or she may take unnecessary risks such as driving under the influence or going to work while intoxicated.

Middle stage alcoholism often leads to depression and anxiety, which can affect more than just the individual. Family members and friends often feel the effects of one person’s addiction to alcohol, with children particularly affected.

It is difficult to tell the difference between the early and middle stages of alcoholism, but one of the clear differences is the fact that alcohol becomes less pleasurable during middle stage alcoholism. It begins to cause adverse problems, and the affected person may become physically dependent on it. This means that he or she will experience various withdrawal symptoms when not drinking; this could include sweating, shaking, nausea, vomiting, and headaches.

Late Stage Alcoholism

Late stage alcoholics will spend most of their time drinking. They will live for alcohol and will often suffer from malnutrition as they will avoid eating. The majority of their calories come from alcohol, and their body will begin to suffer from lack of nutrients. The constant alcohol consumption means that their internal organs will start to deteriorate, and mental health problems can develop.

Those in the late stage of alcoholism could suffer from liver disease, kidney disease and a host of other health concerns. They might suffer from hallucinations, blurred vision, constant vomiting, irritability, confusion, and depression.

The appearance of someone with late stage alcoholism can change dramatically. The damage being done inside will begin to show on the outside. Alcoholics at this stage of the illness may appear flushed or have yellowing of the skin, which would indicate a problem with the liver. He or she may suffer extreme tremors in the morning after spending a number of hours not drinking while sleeping.

Secondary Illnesses

Alcoholism is an illness in its own right, but it is important to note that excessive alcohol consumption leads to a host of secondary illnesses. Alcohol affects almost every cell in the body, and it is linked to hundreds of mental and physical health issues.

Late stage alcoholism is connected to heart failure, high blood pressure, hepatitis, fatty liver, gastrointestinal problems, ulcers, respiratory problems, pneumonia, cancer, and death.

Help for Alcoholism

It’s hard to understand why someone would continue to abuse alcohol when it causes so many problems, but the truth is that those affected by alcoholism have no control over their ability to stop. They will experience intense cravings for alcohol when they are not drinking, and the affected individual is usually unable to resist.

Alcoholism is an illness that can be treated, but not cured. Early intervention offers the best chance for successful treatment, however. Late stage alcoholism is notoriously difficult to recover from because of the amount of damage that has been done to the body and the fact that the illness has become entrenched in the brain. Nevertheless, it is important to note that however difficult it may be to overcome alcoholism, it is never impossible, especially with the right help and support.

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