The Stages of Alcoholism Part 2
Note this is the second blog of The Stages of Alcoholism. See part one here.
Many people start experimenting with alcohol in high school or college, and often this involves binge drinking. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported 6.5 million young people aged 12 to 20 participated in binge drinking in 2010 alone. Binge drinking increases the risk of developing a more severe alcohol problem.
Often, drinking at occasional parties becomes an every-weekend event. A person might drink as an excuse to hang out with friends, to fight stress or boredom, or to deal with depression or anxiety. When this occurs, the drinker begins to have an emotional attachment to alcohol. They use booze to feel good, physically and emotionally.
EARLY STAGE ALCOHOL USE DISORDER
The line between “problem drinking” and “early stage alcoholism” is blurry. There may be few signs of impairment, even though the alcoholic’s body is building a tolerance for alcohol. Their friends may notice the person can drink more without losing control. They may sense something is different, but might not be able to identify the cause. The early stage alcoholic may drink to deal with stress or life problems. They might have blackouts or memory loss when they drink.
Early stage alcoholics start to experience some consequences from their drinking, such as sleep problems, increased depression, worsening hangovers, problems being in social situations without drinking, or even relationship problems as a result of their drinking. They still enjoy drinking too much to care about the negative effects, though.
MIDDLE STAGE ALCOHOL USE DISORDER
A person in the middle stage of alcoholism requires alcohol to enjoy social activities. It is nearly impossible for them to reduce or stop their consumption because they have become physically dependent on alcohol. When they try to stop, they experience withdrawal symptoms like cravings and irritability. They have a pattern of using alcohol even though it causes problems in several areas of their lives.
The Mayo Clinic identifies middle stage alcoholics as people whose attachment to alcohol has taken over their routine, and who have lost control over their use of alcohol. The alcoholic notices both physical and social problems related to their drinking, but they cannot stop drinking. Blackouts become a regular occurrence, and withdrawal symptoms get progressively more severe.
Pre-existing mental health conditions also get worse as the effects of alcohol impact them. Many alcoholics start hiding their alcohol, making excuses for their drinking, and losing interest in their appearance. Relationships disintegrate, jobs are lost, and legal problems multiply.
LATE STAGE ALCOHOL USE DISORDER
Late stage alcoholics no longer drink for fun. They are physically and mentally addicted to alcohol, and they drink to stay alive. Without alcohol in their system, withdrawal symptoms are too severe to tolerate. They may even be fatal if the person tries to go “cold turkey” and detox from alcohol without medical help. Late stage alcoholics drink daily, and they experience severe consequences in all areas of their lives. Alcoholism has all but destroyed their health, family, work, finances, social relationships, and criminal records. They may have been to treatment multiple times, whether voluntarily or ordered by the court system.
TREATMENT AND RECOVERY
Even early stage alcohol use disorder leads to problems. The deeper a person sinks into alcoholism, the more difficult it is to treat. If you feel you have a problem or your family or friends are worried about your drinking, it is time to talk to a professional about getting help.
Detox from alcohol is never enough. Treatment involves detox as well as recovery and learning to live and cope with all of life’s situations without using alcohol. Often recovery requires relearning life skills and rebuilding relationships with family, employers, a new social group, and positive role models.
Alcoholics need lifelong support to stay alcohol-free. Once an alcoholic loses control over alcohol, regaining it is nearly impossible. Alcoholism is a life-threatening alcohol allergy.
People with alcohol problems should consult a trained addiction specialist as soon as possible, to determine the best course of treatment for them. Although it may seem impossible, people with middle and late stage alcohol use disorder can and do find lasting recovery with professional help. Quality continuum of care treatment is essential.
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