No one goes to sleep at night and wakes up with an alcohol addiction. This disease chips away at every intimate area of life for some people. They may start with a drink after a challenging work day.
Eventually, more drinks and an increased tolerance for their drink of choice leads to end-stage alcoholism. If alcohol is keeping you or someone you love from living a full life, seek help before getting dangerously close to being unable to reclaim a sober life.
Alcoholism is a Progressive Disease
Like most diseases, alcoholism takes a progressive toll on the human body. It is marked by three stages: early, middle and end. Slowly over time, your life becomes controlled by when, where and how much alcohol you drink daily.
The gradual change from an occasional social or after-work drink to regular abuse is not obvious to you. By the time people around you begin bringing it to your attention, you have likely reached full-blown dependence.
Treatment during the early stage is critical but also requires an acknowledgment that a problem exists. Typically, severe symptoms associated with the latter stages of an addiction to alcohol can result in life-threatening health crises.
What is Early-Stage Alcoholism?
With early-stage alcoholism, you may have a positive experience when drinking alcohol. To your loved ones, it does not appear that you have a drinking problem. Even though you might be drinking more, your behavior is still within the normal realm.
However, this stage is the pathway that leads to chronic use and abuse. Generally, your tolerance level may also seem high during this stage. In addition to drinking more, some common behaviors exhibited during the early stage include:
- Drinking causes more social and relatable behavior than when sober
- Creating more reasons to have alcohol at social events
- Using alcohol to deal with loneliness, boredom, stress or other undesirable emotions
What is Middle-Stage Alcoholism?
Once you reach middle-stage alcoholism, you no longer drink simply for a quick high or an emotional escape. The early stage is over and drinking is now a staple in your life. The consequences of alcohol abuse also begin to show up on a daily basis.
For instance, you may ruin your perfect attendance at work by calling in sick more often. Hobbies and activities that once brought enjoyment to your life are no longer interesting. Withdrawal symptoms such as depression, sweating and cravings are present if you do not drink.
To stave off these uncomfortable symptoms, you drink more. Middle-stage alcoholism means you are now physically dependent on alcohol. This is a direct sign that your brain has adapted to alcohol in the body.
The Physiological Trap
Continuing to drink heavily once your body develops a high tolerance leads to a physical dependence on alcohol. Only by drinking can you avoid withdrawal symptoms. Otherwise, not maintaining a consistent amount of alcohol in your bloodstream may cause you to feel physically ill.
Visible Signs of Alcoholism
Visible signs that alcohol addiction is taking hold of your life are prominent during middle-stage alcoholism. Your body can become distressed even if you stop drinking for a short period of time. Drinking alcohol is necessary to satisfy the ongoing cravings that are now in the driver’s seat of your life.
Common behaviors present during the middle stage of alcoholism include:
- Habitual drinking outside of social settings
- Agitation and erratic behavior
- Spending more time acquiring and drinking alcohol
- Relationship issues
What is End-Stage Alcoholism?
By the time you get to the end stage of alcoholism, you have lost complete control over drinking. Most likely, you notice that your relationships, career and perhaps finances have taken a significantly negative hit. You may also begin having serious mental and physical health conditions.
The bulk of your time is now spent servicing the disease. Drinking alcohol seems like the only way for you to cope. This full-blown alcohol addiction requires seeking help from a professional alcohol detoxification program.
Some of the physical health issues that you may exhibit during end-stage alcoholism include:
- Weakened immune system – over time, you may become more vulnerable to different illnesses.
- Damaged heart muscle –risk of stroke, high blood pressure and a heart attack increases.
- Damaged liver – recovery to the liver might be impossible after years of excessive alcohol drinking. This vital organ becomes susceptible to cirrhosis where healthy tissue is replaced by scar tissue.
- Damaged nerves – in the form of alcoholic neuropathy from chronic heavy alcohol drinking. You begin to have problems with muscles, walking, numbness and urinating.
- Malnutrition – caloric intake from nutritious foods is replaced with alcohol. Even when you eat, alcohol can interfere with how your body absorbs nutrients.
The last stage of alcoholism may also cause mental deterioration that creates issues such as:
- Emotional connection with loved ones – years of centering your life around alcohol consumption takes its toll on your interpersonal relationships. Problems with a spouse and children worsen as you struggle with impaired social skills and isolation.
- Memory loss and blackouts – further deterioration in relationships occurs when you cannot remember encounters with loved ones. This stage of alcoholism can also significantly have negative impacts on your career.
- Co-occurring mental health disorders – anxiety, bipolar disorder or depression are not unusual with heavy drinking. The effects a mental illness has depends on the longevity of your battle with alcoholism. Long-term recovery is often necessary to treat both conditions.
How Long Does End-Stage Alcoholism Last?
When left untreated, alcoholism can become a terminal disease. Currently, there is not an official list of criteria to diagnose end-stage alcoholism. However, there are distinctive signs linked to the severity and length of use that can identify whether you have reached this stage.
With its high mortality rate, the end stage of alcoholism not only causes a significant amount of suffering but can also lead to death. Treatment during this stage is difficult, but it can also be a life-saving decision.
The life expectancy of a heavy drinker is shortened by the onset of medical diseases and conditions. Quitting, along with the following factors, can help to prolong life:
- Extent of damage to the body once drinking stops
- Quality of medical care
- Commitment to beating the disease of alcoholism
Can I Recover During this Stage?
Although there is a high mortality rate for the end stage of alcoholism, a variety of treatment options are available. The first phase of treatment for alcohol addiction involves a medically supervised detox program.
This is crucial to rid your body of the toxins from alcohol. Under close supervision, you get help for enduring withdrawal symptoms as you mentally and physically readjust to functioning without alcohol.
Some minor and major withdrawal symptoms that accompany detox may include:
- Extreme hallucinations
- Delirium tremens
Detox also prepares you for a long-term treatment program. Through ongoing rehabilitation, your chances of fully recovering from alcoholism greatly improve. Detox stabilizes you so that medical and psychological therapies can have greater effects on your overall wellness and recovery.
Treatments may include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, yoga and group therapy. An alcohol rehab team will develop an individualized plan based on your needs. Hope that makes your life better instead of worse is always possible.
What Makes End-Stage Alcoholism Deadly?
The progressive nature of alcoholism takes its toll on your mental and physical health. It can literally shorten your life span because of the diseases linked directly to excessive alcohol consumption.
Untreated alcoholism can end in death due to health complications such as liver damage. This vital organ stops functioning normally to remove toxins from the body, which can lead to other severe conditions.
In addition to heart problems and stroke, end-stage alcoholism also increases your risk of cancer and dementia. Brain damage and hepatitis can also appear at this stage. Any of these serious health complications from alcoholism can cause death.
Without treatment, you could suffer from multiple symptoms such as swollen legs, jaundice and internal bleeding.
Death may occur from a combination of symptoms like cardiac arrest or seizures. Some cases may also cause sudden death due to an overdose or alcohol poisoning.
There is Always Hope and Help for Alcoholism
Reaching end-stage alcoholism means drinking has taken over your life. However, it does not mean you are at the point of no return. Long Island Interventions offers an inpatient alcoholism treatment program to give you hope and help for recovery.
The first step begins with medical detox. We provide supervised medications to ensure you can endure the withdrawal phase without taking a drink. Our program also equips you with valuable skills to continue a life of sobriety after treatment. Contact our addiction support team today.