Some people can consume alcohol and not become addicted. But for some, drinking alcohol leads to AUD. Here’s is how to recognize the stages of alcoholism.
AUD, or Alcohol use disorder, is the obsessive and chronic consumption of alcohol. It impacts millions, many of whom find seeking help to be difficult, especially if they’re unaware of how it impacts their lives and bodies.
How Serious Is My Addiction to Alcohol?
One big indication of AUD is the effect that it has on a person’s life. It is important to define their relationship with alcohol. How much time do they spend thinking about alcohol, planning events around it, or making sure there is enough on hand.
Going a little deeper, this also means assessing alcohol’s influence on the person and the fundamental aspects of their life such as the neglect of responsibilities and the dissolution of intimate relationships. It could mean the loss of interest in hobbies or financial problems or even legal issues.
Typical behavioral and cognitive symptoms of alcoholism that can be observed are as follows:
- Poor school/work performance
- Run-ins with the law
- Financial issues associated with drinking habits
- Memory loss
- Mood swings
- Hostility, anxiety, or depression
Stages of Alcoholism
The quickest way to figure out how serious an addiction has become is by familiarizing oneself with medical research. Though not exhaustive, the 4 stages of AUD can be helpful in defining where a person is in relation to their alcohol intake. Those stages are pre-alcoholic, early stage, middle stage, and late stage.
Pre-alcoholic (a term that serves as a warning for the later stages) refers to individuals who do not feel a strong dependency upon or a need to consume alcohol. At this stage, alcohol tolerance—or the body’s ability to process ethanol—is beginning to develop.
This may look more like experimentation. It’s when self-medicating gets its start as people tend to cope with stress, anxiety, or other emotions with a drink.
A pattern of drinking develops because of unhealthy practices. The individual may value how they feel when drunk. Hangovers typically are common in this stage.
This is when alcohol takes more prominence in their life and activities become excuses to consume alcohol. Binge drinking or heavy social drinking may fall into this stage.
As well, this phase is prime for what the CDC refers to as short-term health risks. The likelihood of alcohol poisoning, injury, violence, risky sexual behaviors, and complications with pregnancy increases during this stage.
Alcohol has seeped into other aspects of life beyond social drinking. Drinking becomes habitual and consistent. Days may start with a drink and most likely will end in one. Withdrawals may begin affecting the person when they are not drinking and relationships and work may begin to suffer.
This is the stage where the consequences of abusing alcohol become apparent but some control over consumption can be retained.
This stage is characterized by a loss of control. This is a dependence phase where the person must drink to feel normal. Most likely there are heavy consequences in this phase: breakdown of relationships, loss of jobs, DUI, and others.
Heavy drinking and hangovers are more frequent, and the body is fully dependent on alcohol to function. The individual is on a path toward long-term health risks like chronic diseases, high blood pressure, depression, and cancer.
When Should I Get Alcohol Addiction Treatment?
If alcoholism is impacting your life in any negative way, seek professional addiction services. If you see yourself in any of the above stages, particularly mid or late, call us. Our team can offer guidance and information that can change your life. Our outpatient detox center is set up for medication assisted treatment for long term recovery,
Dealing with AUD on your own can be dangerous and even more so if left untreated. Addiction treatment facilities can guide you through the process of identifying the problem and establishing a personalized roadmap to sobriety.