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what are the 3 stages of alcoholism

What Are The 3 Stages of Alcoholism? Short and Long-Term Effects, Dangers, Risk Factors, Helping an Alcoholic, Medical Detox & Treatment Options

The first stage of alcoholism: The early stage

What Are The 3 Stages of Alcoholism? It’s simple for you to fall into the early phases of alcoholism if you have a drinking problem. At this stage, the alcoholic has only just begun to build a tolerance and dependency on alcohol. They will frequently believe they need to drink more and more to get the effects they want. This may imply drinking a whole bottle of wine instead of just a glass during dinner.

Because alcohol has such a minor impact on the drinker, these individuals may begin to consume alcohol daily. They might even start drinking to deal with difficulties in their lives. For example, they may rely on a drink to get them through a stressful day.

It’s difficult to detect the early phases of alcoholism since these individuals can easily conceal their drinking problems. They may still go to work, school, or other obligations while still drinking.

what are the 3 stages of alcoholism
Because alcohol has such a minor impact on the drinker, individuals may begin to consume alcohol on a daily basis.

When you reach out to someone with an issue, let them know that you understand their struggle. Let people know if they’ve been affected by the work of others so they can see how it fits into their own lives. People don’t always realize that they have a drinking problem until help arrives.

During the early phases, alcoholism develops an alcohol dependency. During this stage, it may occur that you have trouble with drinking because drinking too often will not give you pleasure. It means you are experiencing drinking problems that could affect your mental health. When you are experiencing alcoholism you can start drinking in order to relieve stress and reduce anxiety. Although your drinking problems are mild, they can still be quite normal.

Second Stage of Alcoholism: The Middle Stage of alcoholism

What Are The 3 Stages of Alcoholism? The second step involves increasing alcohol consumption and strengthening tolerance. Initially, cravings may occur between drinks. Recovery from drinking after a day of drinking could also cause physical pain. Three stages of excessive alcohol consumption occur with tolerance as well as frequency exceeding high.

If you’re an alcoholic in the middle stage, you’ll need to drink alcohol to avoid unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. If you try to quit drinking for a few days, you might get the following:

  • Nausea and/or vomiting: Some of the most frequent signs include nausea and vomiting. They usually begin three to four days after your last alcoholic beverage and get better over time.
  • Insomnia: When you learn about alcohol withdrawal symptoms, sleeplessness is usually near the top of the list. After you quit drinking alcohol, your sleep cycle may be disrupted, making it difficult to obtain a good night’s sleep. If you had trouble sleeping before you became addicted to alcohol, it could get worse while you are in alcohol detoxification.
  • Irritability: During the second stage of alcoholism, alcohol cravings and physical alcohol withdrawal symptoms can make you irritable and moody.
  • Headaches: Hangovers, on the other hand, are among the most typical withdrawal symptoms following long-term alcohol abuse.

During the middle stage of alcoholism, you’re also susceptible to delirium tremens (d.t.’s), a condition in which someone with alcohol use disorder suddenly stops drinking. A condition known as acute alcoholic hepatitis occurs when your body is unable to break down alcohol due to a lack of a stomach enzyme called “pancreatic alcohol dehydrogenase.” This happens in people who are severely intoxicated, whether through binge drinking or prolonged usage. Your risk for this condition rises if you develop an alcohol addiction and engage in binge drinking. The following are signs and symptoms of delirium tremens:

  • After a few days, you may experience severe perplexity.
  • Tremors
  • Irritability/agitation
  • Mood changes
  • Fatigue
  • Restlessness
  • Sound or light sensitivity
  • Changes in your mental state

Third Stage of Alcoholism: End Stage Alcoholism

What Are The 3 Stages of Alcoholism? In the third stage, you’ve established a full-fledged alcohol addiction and are probably seeing the negative physical and emotional consequences. You may have gotten so caught up in drinking that you’re constantly drinking, thinking about when you’ll get your next drink, or recovering from it.

When you have a hangover, it’s very common to feel as though you need alcohol simply to get through the day, and you could wake up with the rashes. Life outside of drinking at this point appears meaningless and you’ve lost all interest in the activities you used to like doing. You can’t sleep unless you have a drink before bed and suffer from anxiety, sadness, and insomnia. Because they confronted you about your drinking habits, your friends no longer speak with you. You frequently withdraw yourself and devote a lot of time to drinking alone.

Alcohol’s physical effects begin to show soon after you’ve started drinking heavily. You’re more likely to become sick (especially with frequent respiratory illnesses), and your doctor may have warned you about the harm to your liver or pancreas as a consequence of long-term alcohol abuse. You are also most probably malnourished because long-term alcohol abuse.

what are the 3 stages of alcoholism
In the third stage, you’ve established a full-fledged alcohol addiction and are probably seeing the negative physical and emotional consequences.

It makes it easy to treat an alcohol patient early in their relapse. However, with alcoholism in the last phases, the patients become prone to binge drinking, a lesser chance to recover. Its treatment has become less complicated and relapse is relatively higher than in other areas of life. End-stage drinking disorders are essentially complete and chronic symptoms. In this last stage of alcoholism, alcoholics suffer indigestion due to a lack of food. Physical weaknesses are caused if we lack wholesome foods and water.

Most end-stage drinkers feel that their drinking has become uncontrolled and suffer from underlying medical issues. Heavy drinking can have a variety of serious health risks and can cause serious injury to vascular systems and gastrointestinal tracts, including the kidneys and liver. Liver disease can be classified into three phases. When liver scarring occurs, dietary therapy and monitoring of lipid levels can be performed as an emergency measure.

As your physical, emotional, and mental health deteriorate, you become increasingly aware of a problem but believe that there is no longer any hope for recovery. The alcohol has ensnared your life, and you’re not sure if you’ll be able to get free. By the late stage of alcoholism, the bodies of alcoholics have already suffered significant damage, which is frequently visible.

What Are The 3 Stages of Alcoholism? Pre-Alcoholism Stage

This stage of alcoholism is difficult to notice, even for the person misusing alcohol. During the pre-alcoholic stage, a person will begin drinking in social settings. As they continue to drink, they may also start using alcohol for stress relief. In other words, they use alcohol to self-medicate but can still limit consumption without drinking too much. 

They may also drink to cope with sadness, loneliness, stress at work, or relationship issues, among others. Rather than dealing with the actual problem, pre-alcoholics will drink alcohol to dull emotional pain.  The pre-alcoholic stage is not obvious to others. However, alcohol tolerance is gradually developing. The individual can stay in this stage for many years but will eventually start showing more disordered behaviors.

Short and Long-Term Effects of Alcohol

You won’t necessarily feel the physical effects of alcohol, but it starts from the moment you take your first sip. If you drink, you’ve probably had some experience with the physical effects of alcohol, from the warm buzz that kicks in quickly to the not-so-pleasant wine headache, or the hangover that shows up the next morning. Since those effects don’t last long, you might not worry much about them, especially if you don’t drink often.

Many people assume the occasional beer or glass of wine at mealtimes or special occasions doesn’t pose much cause for concern. But drinking any amount of alcohol can potentially lead to unwanted health consequences. People who binge drink or drink heavily may notice more health effects sooner, but alcohol also poses some risks for people who drink in moderation.

Alcohol use can begin to take a toll on anyone’s physical and mental well-being over time. These effects may be more serious and more noticeable if you drink regularly and tend to have more than 1 or 2 drinks when you do.

Short-term physical effects of alcohol

Temporary physical effects of alcohol you might notice while drinking (or shortly after) include:

  • Feelings of relaxation or drowsiness
  • A sense of euphoria or giddiness
  • Changes in mood
  • Lowered inhibitions
  • Impulsive behavior
  • Slowed or slurred speech
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Head pain
  • Changes in hearing, vision, and perception
  • Loss of coordination
  • Trouble focusing or making decisions
  • Loss of consciousness or gaps in memory (often called a blackout)

Some of these physical effects of alcohol, like a relaxed mood or lowered inhibitions, might show up quickly, after just one drink. Others, like loss of consciousness or slurred speech, may develop after a few drinks. Dehydration-related effects, like nausea, headache, and dizziness, might not appear for a few hours, and they can also depend on what you drink, how much, and if you also drink water.

These effects might not last very long, but that doesn’t make them insignificant. Impulsiveness, loss of coordination, and mood changes can affect your judgment and behavior and contribute to more far-reaching effects, including accidents, injuries, and decisions you later regret.

Long-term physical effects of alcohol

Alcohol use can also lead to more lasting concerns that extend beyond your mood and health. Some long-term physical effects of alcohol of frequently drinking include:

  • Persistent changes in mood, including anxiety and irritability
  • Insomnia and other sleep concerns
  • A weakened immune system, meaning you might get sick more often
  • Changes in libido and sexual function
  • Changes in appetite and weight
  • Problems with memory and concentration
  • Difficulty focusing on tasks
  • Increased tension and conflict in romantic and family relationships

Other Physical effects of alcohol on the body

Here’s a breakdown of the physical effects of alcohol on your internal organs and body processes.

Digestive and endocrine glands

Drinking too much alcohol may cause inflammation of the pancreas, resulting in a condition called pancreatitis. Pancreatitis can activate the release of pancreatic digestive enzymes and cause abdominal pain. Pancreatitis can become a long-term condition and cause serious complications.

Inflammatory damage

Your liver helps break down and remove toxins and harmful substances (including alcohol) from your body. Long-term alcohol use interferes with this process. It also increases your risk for alcohol-related liver disease and chronic liver inflammation:

  • Alcohol-related liver disease is a potentially life threatening condition that leads to toxins and waste buildup in your body.
  • Chronic liver inflammation can cause scarring, or alcoholic cirrhosis. When scar tissue forms, it may permanently damage your liver.

Sugar levels

The pancreas helps regulate how your body uses insulin and responds to glucose. If your pancreas and liver don’t function properly due to pancreatitis or liver disease, you could experience low blood sugar or hypoglycemia. A damaged pancreas can also prevent your body from producing enough insulin to use sugar. This can lead to hyperglycemia or too much sugar in the blood.

If your body can’t manage and balance your blood sugar levels, you may experience greater complications and side effects related to diabetes. Experts recommend avoiding excessive amounts of alcohol if you have diabetes or hypoglycemia.

Central nervous system

One major way to recognize alcohol’s impact on your body? Understanding how it affects your central nervous system. Slurred speech, a key sign of intoxication, happens because alcohol reduces communication between your brain and body. This makes speech and coordination — think reaction time and balance — more difficult. That’s one major reason why you should never drive after drinking. Over time, alcohol can cause damage to your central nervous system, you might notice numbness and tingling in your feet and hands.

Drinking can also affect your ability to:

  • Create long-term memories
  • Think clearly
  • Make rational choices

Over time, drinking can also damage your frontal lobe, the part of the brain responsible for vital functions, like impulse control, short-term memory, and judgment. Chronic heavy drinking can also cause permanent brain damage, including Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, a brain disorder that affects memory.

Digestive system

The connection between alcohol consumption and your digestive system might not seem immediately clear. The side effects often only appear after the damage has happened. Continuing to drink can worsen these symptoms. Drinking can damage the tissues in your digestive tract, preventing your intestines from digesting food and absorbing nutrients and vitamins properly. In time, this damage can cause malnutrition.

Heavy drinking can also lead to:

  • Gas
  • Bloating
  • Feeling of fullness in your abdomen
  • Diarrhea or painful stools
  • Ulcers or hemorrhoids (due to dehydration and constipation)

Ulcers can cause dangerous internal bleeding, which can sometimes be fatal without prompt diagnosis and treatment.

Circulatory system

Chronic drinking can affect your heart and lungs, raising your risk for developing heart-related health issues. Circulatory system complications include:

What Are Some Risk Factors of Alcoholism?

  • Drinking at an early age. New findings showed that early drinking was associated with developing alcoholism. This is according to National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
  • Psychiatric disorders like depression, anxiety, mood and personality disorder, or other mental health issues can increase the risk of alcoholism. Further, it’s easy to turn to alcohol when a person is feeling anxious or depressed.  The effects of alcohol may seem to temporarily ease those feelings. Because of this, it can resort to drinking more, leading to alcohol addiction.
  • Stressful Environments. According to the US National Library of Medicine National, environmental stress is the most potent. Some people turn to alcohol to relieve stress.
what are the 3 stages of alcoholism in groups
New findings showed that early drinking was associated with developing alcoholism.
  • Family history. Risk of alcoholism increase if you have a parent or other relative who is alcoholic. Children who have one parent who struggles with alcohol use disorder have 3-4 times increased risk of becoming an alcoholic themselves. This is according to American Addiction Center.
  • Taking alcohol with medicine. Some medicines can increase the toxic effects of alcohol on the body. When a person continually takes alcohol with their medications, they may become addicted to the effects that follow – some of which have the capability to be very dangerous and even life-threatening.

Alcohol recovery is possible

Alcoholism is clinically referred to as alcohol use disorder (AUD). It is a common, chronic, and progressive medical condition that involves the compulsive consumption of alcohol. Not everyone who drinks is an alcoholic. However, anyone whose life is negatively affected by alcohol consistently is considered to have an alcohol use disorder. Examples of this include failing to fulfill work, family, or social obligations as a result of recurrent drinking. Moreover, regular or frequent drinking means drinking alcohol most days and weeks. If you are concerned that you or someone you love has a problem with alcohol there are alcoholism treatment options available.

Alcohol is commonly consumed as a drink in various forms. Examples are beer, wine, and hard liquor. Alcoholism is organized into three categories: mild, moderate, and severe. You could also be becoming dependent on alcohol. So, if you find it very difficult to enjoy yourself or relax without having a drink, you could have become psychologically dependent on it. Alcoholism treatment is necessary once there is a psychological or physiological dependence, especially when both kinds of dependency are present.

How to help an alcoholic?

Alcoholic Recovery is the answer you’ve been looking for. If one of your loved ones has a significant drinking problem, you have probably had a front-row seat to watch the devastation that has occurred. That is also a tragedy. The fact you are reading this information is a testament to how much your care and want to see your loved one recover from their drinking problem. 

As you contemplate how to help anyone that has a drinking problem, you need to understand they aren’t weak in character. They aren’t morally flawed. What they are is sick with a very devious disease. Yes, addictions are classified as diseases. Even more troubling is the fact that alcoholism and other types of substance abuse problems aren’t curable. The best an alcoholic or drug addict can hope for is to arrest their disease and render it dormant for the rest of their life.

For your part, it would be of great help for you to accept that the person you love is sick. With all of the empathy and sympathy you can muster, that is what you will need in reserve if you want to help them.

How to Run an Effective Intervention For An Alcoholic?

As you contemplate organizing an intervention, you need to understand that this is a very serious process. There really isn’t any way to know for sure how things will go. In a best-case scenario, your loved one will admit they are an alcoholic and agree to go into rehab. If things don’t go well, there could be a lot of anger and confusion that comes out of the process. 

You really have three choices if you think an intervention is the right thing to do. Your choices are:
  • Organize and run the intervention yourself 
  • Ask another family member or friend to run the intervention
  • Seek help from a professional addiction treatment professional who specializes in intervention coaching

Regardless of which option you choose, you would benefit from knowing some general guidelines about interventions.

Alcohol Addiction Treatment Options

Medical Detox Program

Medical Detox or Detoxification is the process by which an addicted person clears their body from alcohol and or drugs due to substance use disorder, and begins recovery from their addiction. Drug detox and rehabilitation centers help alcoholics ease and reduce withdrawal symptoms and their corresponding dangerous side effects. Detox is the first step in alcoholism treatment.

Withdrawing from alcohol on your own can be life-threatening and incredibly dangerous due to severe symptoms like heart palpitations and seizures. That’s why medical drug detox is needed because it’s a safe and effective way to withdraw from substance abuse with a lower risk of complications. Medical detox treatments are designed for your particular chemical dependency to come off drug and alcohol abuse.

what are the 3 stages of alcoholism
Medical Detox or Detoxification is the process by which an addicted person clears their body from alcohol and or drugs due to substance use disorder, and begins recovery from their addiction.

Did you know that our alcohol detox can help prevent and treat delirium tremens? Also, an extremely severe form of alcohol withdrawal can cause body tremors, hallucinations, and seizures.

Other benefits of a alcoholism treatment with medical detox include:

  • Receive 24/7 medical care and support.
  • Recovery away from access to drugs and alcohol.
  • Receive medications that eliminate or reduce withdrawal symptoms.
  • Reduced risk for relapse, overdose, and death.
  • Recovery without having to juggle responsibilities related to work, school, and family.
  • Improve your physical and mental health.

Alcoholism Treatment Plans

Our in-house medical team will design your treatment program to support long-term recovery, using cutting-edge methods in a serene residential setting. Above all, you’ll find a luxury healing setting that offers advanced programs to address your personal needs. Alcoholism treatment does not need to be uncomfortable. You should not have to be in a box. We address that issue.

Levels of Care:

  • Alcoholism Medial Detox
  • Inpatient Alcoholism Treatment
  • Aftercare for Alumni
  • Family Support for all clients
  • Outpatient/PHP Rehabilitation after inpatient alcoholism treatment

Alcohol Inpatient Treatment

Inpatient alcohol rehab is one of the most common ways to treat an AUD. It involves checking into a rehab facility and staying there for the duration of your treatment. You will have access to medical professionals and other specialists 24 hours a day, allowing you to rest easy knowing help is always available. Additionally, inpatient rehab programs have a set schedule which consists of breakfast in the morning, followed by therapies, counseling sessions and activities for the remainder of the day.

Medication-Assisted Treatment for Alcohol

Seeking professional treatment for Alcohol Addiction is imperative. Quitting alcohol without any medical intervention can lead to severe withdrawal seizures and even death. Treatment initially aims to ease the withdrawal symptoms by close monitoring and prescribing a slow taper off medications, formally known as medication-assisted therapy (MAT). Medication-Assisted Treatment For Alcohol Addiction consists of a combination of medications that works to alleviate the withdrawal effects so the recovery journey can go as smoothly as possible. 

Receive the Best Alcohol Addiction Treatment at We Level Up

Alcohol withdrawal can be excruciating, anxiety-ridden, and even life-threatening. Therefore, the combination of medically assisted treatment for alcohol and psychotherapy is known to be the most successful in the treatment of alcohol use disorder. Effective MAT for alcohol dependence has been shown with the FDA-approved medications Naltrexone (ReVia, Depade), Naltrexone for Extended-Release Injectable Suspension (VIVITROL), Disulfiram (Antabuse), and Acamprosate Calcium (Campral). 

Our Facilities


[1] ‘MAT Medications, Counseling, and Related Conditions’ – Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) (

[2] Lee, J., Kresina, T. F., Campopiano, M., Lubran, R., & Clark, H. W. (2015). Use of pharmacotherapies in the treatment of alcohol use disorders and opioid dependence in primary care. BioMed research international, 2015, 137020. – U.S. National Library of Medicine (

[3] National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2014). Harmful interactions: Mixing alcohol with medicines