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Stages of Alcoholism

Like most stories, the life of an alcoholic has a beginning, middle, and end. The three main stages of alcoholism don’t occur separately. They blend one into another, and it can be difficult to pin down exactly when casual drinking turns into problem drinking. Depending on the individual, the time it takes from the first drink, to full-blown, final-stage alcoholism is usually around 15-years. There is a Johns Hopkins test for alcoholism, which can determine what stage the disease is at. This may be comforting to some, but what’s really important is knowing that the earlier help is sought, the better the chances for a happier ending. Education regarding alcohol abuse is the first step. Check out Ohio for addiction treatment, the state has some of the best centers in the country.

The Beginning / Adaptive Stage

When drinking goes from social, to solitary, private occasions, that’s a red-flag warning for those who know what to look for. At this point, alcohol is seen as the only way to deal with life’s problems, and bring peace. Hangovers can be fairly obvious to others, but in the beginning, future alcoholics don’t always get them. At this stage, alcoholism is easy to hide because there aren’t many noticeable outward signs, at least not yet. Alcohol pays no attention to age, and is not gender specific. It can hide in plain sight, because individuals at this stage are able to drink more than most of their friends, and not show any sign of being intoxicated. The more a person drinks, the more tolerance they have, and the individual becomes a “functional alcoholic.” Jobs, relationships, interests, and hobbies don’t suffer much at this point, even though the individual could be lying about how much, and how often, they drink. Alcoholics in the “Adaptive Stage” are said to be in “denial,” because they do not see drinking as a problem in their lives.

The Middle Stage

At this stage, it’s hard to hide the fact a problem exists because the individual begins to act the way most of us expect from someone who’s been drinking. They have lost whatever ability they may have had in the beginning to control their drinking. By now, drinking alone is the norm, and it starts earlier in the day. If they have drinking companions at all, it will be others of their kind. It’s not fun anymore, and it hasn’t cured any problems, but that makes no difference. The only way they know how to cope with this problem is to drink even more. It never works, and it’s a brutal way to live, but that is the life of a second-stage alcoholic. The craving becomes so strong; it can’t be denied.

By now, the body is so used to alcohol, trying to do without brings on sever withdrawal symptoms. Anxiety, sweating, hallucinating, and shaking are common, and the only cure is what caused it all to begin with, a drink of alcohol. This is the stage where personal and employment problems start to show themselves. Jobs are lost, and relationships are in great danger at this point. Blackouts, long periods of time which the individual can’t recall, are common. The brain can’t be depended on anymore to record experiences of any kind when in “black-out” mode. Some individuals have actually made cross country trips, or had contact with other people, and are unable to remember any of it. Health problems start cropping up, and painful gastritis, plus debilitating hangovers are not un-common at this stage.

The End / Final Stage Alcoholism

Now its come to the end of drinking, or the end of life. Dying from alcohol abuse is an ugly way to go but at this point, it’s either quit, or die. Even in the final stage treatment is still possible but the sad fact is, you have to want the treatment, and most alcoholics will deny a problem exists even as they lay in their death-beds. Heart disease, liver problems, hepatitis, pancreatitis, malnutrition, brain damage, and poor mental health all combine to take another life via alcohol.

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