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Restore Detox Centers offers a safe and comfortable environment that is full of love and support, absent of judgment, guilt and shame. Our home is equipped with the latest technology in the industry, some of the best people in the business, and a level of luxury not found in other addiction treatment centers in San Diego. 

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What Are 4 Stages of Alcoholism?

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, approximately 18 million Americans have been diagnosed with alcohol disorders. The troubling part of this information is that many of these people are actually unaware that they even have any sort of problem. 

Alcohol abuse is a disorder that is gradual, not something that happens instantly.  In our society, frequent and heavy drinking is some sort of right of passage that many people feel they must be a part of.

But when does social drinking become abusive? How much is too much? In a society that glorifies intoxication, what are the signs that someone has gone too far? 

Being aware of the symptoms and signs of each stage of alcoholism can help anyone to seek help prior to their dependence becoming a real issue, the only thing that usually holds someone back is lack of knowledge that they are even on an alcoholic path.

Defining Alcoholism 

Many of us think of alcoholics as old people, or homeless folk living beneath highway underpasses. 

However, over the last fifty years or so, we have started to see such a huge influx of young people with addiction and substance abuse issues, that maybe it is time we reevaluate what actually defines an alcoholic, and discuss the four stages of alcoholism.

No two individuals experience alcohol abuse in the same way.  Nonetheless, there are criteria that individuals have to meet to be considered to have alcohol use disorder.  Clinicians can use the DSM-5 to diagnose alcohol use disorders based on a set of 11 factors.

If a person has experienced at least two of the 11 factors or symptoms in the last year, that person is considered to have an alcohol use disorder. 

There is a diagnosis of mild alcohol use disorder when there are two or three symptoms, moderate when there are four or five symptoms, and severe when there are six or more symptoms.

Some of the following symptoms can point to a diagnosis of alcoholism: 

  • Consuming alcohol so much that it interferes with work, school, family, or any other responsibilities
  • Drinking alcohol despite the adverse effects of relationships 
  • Participating in dangerous behaviors such as fighting, driving, swimming, or operating machinery
  • Developing a dependence over time to achieve the same intoxicating effects

The Early Stage:

Usually occurring during most people’s teenage and early 20’s, this is when someone is just discovering the joys and fun that can come with drinking. 

This stage is also known as the experimental stage where binge drinking is very apparent.  Alcohol can also be consumed more frequently as well as in larger quantities. It is a common initial sign of a drinking problem to consume multiple drinks in a short period of time.

Binge-drinking is defined as having five or more drinks within a two-hour period for men and having four or more drinks within a two-hour period for women.

Drinking at this early stage is about the time that many people are just trying to figure out who they are and how they fit into the stream of life, and drinking can help break down those self-confidence issues and help them to feel a part of the crowd. Which can also turn into being a crutch for many people.

The Middle Stage:

The overindulging or middle stage is characterized by getting drunk at times when it might not be appropriate. This can include getting drunk on the weekdays when you have responsibilities the next day.  

When the person probably shouldn’t have a drink but they see no reason why “one won’t be a problem” and then proceed to drink the rest of the bottle of wine or the whole six-pack.

This early sign of being unable to say no despite any possible consequence or indication that it may not be too wise is a warning of a possible mental dependence or obsession to drink. 

Oftentimes, this is when the excuse of stress comes into play. Increased alcohol consumption can also lead to drinking for reasons such as: 

  • “I had a hard day at work, I deserve to drink” 
  • “My kids/parents were driving me crazy today, I deserve a drink.”
  • “I’m overwhelmed and not feeling the best, I need a drink to help me feel better”

The Late Stage: 

There is always a possibility for an alcoholic to be dependent on alcohol, yet not addicted to drinking. After the problem drinking stage is when dependence forms. At this juncture, this is when you have an attachment to alcohol which has taken control of your normal ritual and begin to drink regularly.

Individuals may be aware of the adverse effects, but have no control over their consumption of alcohol. 

Symptoms of alcohol addiction are very evident at this stage. People may become more depressed, more anxious, or start losing sleep.  You may start to feel sick from heavy drinking but enjoy its effects too much to care. 

Many drinkers at this stage are more likely to drink and drive or experience legal troubles as a result of their drinking.  At this stage, a person must drink more to feel the same effect and intoxication.  

Alcohol addiction has become severe enough that it has begun to wreak havoc on the body, and the only way to counteract the negative effects is to drink more.

The End Stage:

Occurring in every alcoholic when they have passed through the previous three stages of drinking.  This usually occurs when the person no longer drinks for fun, but they drink to completely avoid their life. When they can no longer function without alcohol, despite a possible desire to not want to have to drink anymore. 

They drink because it is their only escape at this point. They drink because they feel hopeless, they drink because it is the only thing that allows them to not feel.

This phase is often characterized by paranoia. The so-called functioning alcoholic can still maintain his or her life during this phase, but this is rare and likely to result in liver damage or other alcohol-related conditions.

You will eventually be struck by the effects of this disease as it progresses.

Treatment For Alcohol Addiction

In determining the progression of alcoholism, the stages of alcoholism are useful, but they are not set in stone. They show the steady decline from social alcohol consumption to chronic alcohol consumption through the typical trajectory of alcoholism.

Fortunately, there is help to recover from alcohol addiction.  The first step is admitting you have a problem and after that is finding detox.

Our alcohol detox in San Diego involves ridding the body of alcohol. Our team will be right by your side guiding you through detox and any alcohol withdrawal symptoms you may experience 

Along with addiction treatment options, we also provide mental health treatment for disorders that might arise on the way.  We can help you or a loved one overcome these fears and help you on your way to long-term recovery.  

In Need of Detox?

It can be intimidating to know that addiction and alcoholism are always right around the corner. Sometimes getting that little push and having medical guidance can be what it takes. 

Relapse and active addiction/alcoholism are only as preventable as much as we value the sobriety we hold in our hands. 

If you or a loved one has been struggling with getting a firm grasp on sobriety and need addiction treatment an detoxification, please call 800-982-5530.  Our teams of specialists are waiting by to help figure out what options are best for sending your life in a comfortable direction that you can proudly stand behind.