Alcoholism doesn’t happen overnight. Your body goes through different stages of alcoholism based on how long you’ve been drinking, how your body becomes dependent on the substance, and the severity of your addiction. You don’t necessarily need to go through each stage to be considered alcoholic, and it’s essential to know the progression.
How Does Addiction Start?
This stage is commonly seen in colleges, whether from people who have turned 21 or underage drinkers. You may engage in casual alcohol abuse, such as during house parties on weekends. You may also be drinking large quantities of alcohol at once. Binge drinking frequently happens when young adults are uncertain of their alcohol tolerance and appropriate limits. It’s easy to drink too much when you don’t have a lot of experience with alcohol.
Symptoms from this stage of alcoholism include:
- Uncharacteristic behavior
- Lack of inhibitions that lead to risk-taking behavior
3 Stages of Alcoholism
While addiction and abuse look different for everyone, for people who fall into alcoholism, the process can normally be tracked into 3 separate stages. Let’s take a look at some of these stages to better understand this addiction and maybe be able to identify them in yourself or your loved one.
Binge drinking usually occurs in private sessions. However, you may become addicted to the way you feel when under the influence of the substance. In this situation, you start to increase how often you’re drinking and have many reasons for reaching for alcohol. During the various stages of alcoholism, drinking can be a way for you to:
- Lower your stress levels
- Enjoy social activities with your friends
- Amuse yourself when you feel bored
- Self-medicate mental illnesses and cope with your emotions
- Improving your mood in general
As your drinking frequency increases, you’ll begin to feel the consequences associated with alcohol abuse. Your body starts to expect a constant level of alcohol. As a result, you may feel poorly when you don’t have it in your system. The physical effects of alcohol can manifest as depression and anxiety, especially if you’re already suffering from these mental illnesses. You may feel generally sick, or your stomach frequently aches due to the hangover effect.
Since you have alcohol in your system frequently at this stage, it’s also common to end up drinking and driving. Operating a vehicle while you have alcohol in your body can turn into a deadly situation. You could hurt yourself or others, especially if you have a hard time gauging your ability to drive when you’re drunk.
Social consequences also occur, impacting your relationship with friends, family, and loved ones. You may find yourself gravitating towards a friend group that prioritizes drinking and leaving people who try to stop you from consuming alcohol.
Alcohol dependence is not necessarily the same thing as alcohol addiction, but they are connected. You can turn to alcohol in certain situations, such as a stressful social event, to “calm your nerves.” If you do this every time you’re in an uncomfortable situation, then you form a dependence on that substance.
Addiction is when you can’t go without drinking, and frequently incorporate it into your everyday life. This includes situations where it’s socially inappropriate to have a drink.
At this stage, your body is so used to having alcohol in your system that it’s taking more and more to have the same effect. You may turn to higher-proof liquor as a way to cut down the overall quantity of beverages. The withdrawal symptoms start to get worse at this stage. If you begin to experience dependence and/or addiction, it’s time to seek alcohol addiction treatment.
The Last Stages of Alcoholism
In this stage, you experience full-blown alcohol dependence and addiction. You rely on alcohol to get through the day. In some cases, you drink alone to hide the fact that you have a high blood alcohol content throughout the day. If you spend more than a few hours in between drinks, you start to feel the withdrawal symptoms. Isolation and pushing people away from you, as well as uncharacteristic outbursts, are commonplace. If you’re battling an addiction to alcohol, our treatment center can help. At The District, we offer:
- Outpatient treatment
- Vocational development program
- Addiction treatment therapy
- Medication-assisted treatment
- Experiential and adventure therapy options