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The 4 Stages of Alcoholism

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Recognizing the stages of alcoholism can help individuals and their families understand what is happening to their loved one before it’s too late. Alcohol and drug addiction are major health issues in the United States. 14% of Americans over age 12 have an alcohol use disorder (AUD). Alcohol is challenging for those with an AUD because it is sold legally and available in numerous settings, from homes to restaurants. Someone may drink for years before developing an addiction, not realizing that their relationship with alcohol has changed. Others become addicted quickly, and friends and family can readily recognize the signs. Alcohol addiction develops in stages. 

Professional addiction treatment is the most effective way to address any substance use disorder. If you or someone you love is dealing with alcohol addiction and seeking an alcohol rehab in Nashville, do not wait. Contact Nashville Treatment Solutions (NTS) today by calling 866.714.5630 or completing our online form. Our staff can answer your questions about the stages of alcoholism, how treatment for a substance use disorder works, and how to decide between the various options for alcohol rehab.

The Stages of Alcoholism

Alcohol consumption falls into categories: abstinence, occasional use, regular use, and abuse. Abuse and addiction are on a continuum with the stages of tolerance and dependence. Alcoholism follows a progression through four stages.

1. Pre-Alcoholic

Everyone who drinks occasionally or socially can be considered in this stage, though only some will progress to the next stage. At this stage, people recognize the pleasant effects of alcohol and feel the effects on the brain’s pleasure centers, creating relaxation and reducing inhibitions. People who rely on those effects to get through difficult situations or cope with stress are at risk of progressing to the next stage of alcoholism.

Pre-alcoholic stage signs are when someone:

  • Seeks drink to help with social anxiety
  • Relies on alcohol to deal with challenging emotions
  • Uses alcohol to de-stress or unwind

2. Early-Stage Alcoholic

This stage of alcohol addiction is often marked by bingeing. Someone in the early stage may experience occasional blackouts, lost memory, or other negative consequences. Not everyone who has binged on drink is in this stage. Some teens try it once or twice and move on, while others find their alcohol use escalates after this point. Binge drinking is typically four drinks in two hours for women and five for men. People in this stage still consider drinking fun, relaxing, and social but show signs of early addiction.

Early-stage alcoholic signs are when someone:

  • Regularly consumes alcohol on binges
  • Has little sense of how much they are drinking and cannot control it
  • Has episodes of alcohol-induced unconsciousness or memory loss
  • Talks about cutting back but doesn’t follow through

3. Middle Alcoholic Phase

This is when people start to notice something is amiss, though it is also the stage in which people begin to work hard at hiding evidence of how much they consume and lie to themselves and others. Alcohol consumption affects the drinker’s regular functioning at work, school, relationships, and more.

Middle-stage alcoholic signs are when someone:

  • Drinks at work, when watching children, or before or while driving
  • Becomes irritable and struggles to cope with normal stressors when sober
  • Has to drink more to achieve the expected effects
  • Shows physical signs such as bloating, facial redness, tremors
  • Hides bottles, hides liquor, lies about drinking habits

4. End-Stage Alcoholism

Receiving addiction treatment before this stage is ideal, as the health consequences of an advanced AUD can be irreversible. Someone at this stage knows stopping without help is impossible, as they’ve tried. The focus of life is entirely on acquiring and consuming alcohol, and it shows. People can lose their jobs, marriages, and homes during this dangerous end-stage. Those who continue to function (called functioning alcoholics) are still experiencing physical consequences such as liver damage or other serious conditions.

End-stage alcoholic signs are when someone:

  • Experiences severe health consequences
  • Loses or is in danger of losing employment
  • Experiences financial fall-out
  • Can no longer maintain relationships

Treat Any of the Stages of Alcoholism at Nashville Treatment Solutions

At NTS, our evidence-based treatments for AUDs are offered by experienced therapists and addiction specialists in a modern facility. You will access peer support, experiential therapies, and cutting-edge psychotherapeutic modalities like EMDR,  DBT,  ACT, family and group therapy, and dual diagnosis treatment options.

Don’t wait. Call 866.714.5630 today or use our online form to start the conversation.