Ashley Jowett
/ Categories: WELLNESS, 2021

The Four Stages of Alcoholism

At United Counseling Service (UCS), we believe that unnecessarily stigmatizing a person through the language we use may hinder someone to seek treatment. We are in the business of saving lives and we want people to know we are here for them. The goal of this article is to educate the worried loved one regarding the use or misuse of alcohol. According to American Addiction Center, there are four stages of negative effects of the use of alcohol, as seen below.
 
According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, alcohol consumption is up 14 – 17% over 2019, presumably as a result of the pandemic. This is concerning, because alcoholism was already one of the biggest health crises facing the United States. Even before the pandemic, there were 17.6 million adults Americans living with an alcohol use disorder and 88,000 died annually from excessive alcohol. And the drain on the economy, mostly due to loss of workplace productivity, topped out at $249 billion a year.  
 
Awareness is one of the keys to identifying alcohol as a problem in ourselves and others. Like other diseases, alcoholism develops over time. Understanding the stages and signs of alcoholism can help you know when to seek help or intervene on behalf of others before the irreparable physical or emotional harm occurs. 
 
Stage One: Pre-alcoholic
During this stage, there is little to no indication of a problem. Drinking is primarily done in social settings, often as a means to destress. However, over time, the individual begins to develop a tolerance for alcohol and requires more and more to achieve the desired effect. People in this stage are typically in denial of the growing problem and those around them are often unaware.
 
Stage Two: Early Alcoholic
When someone experiences an alcohol-related black out, they have progressed to the early alcoholic stage. At this stage an individual’s relationship to alcohol changes. They may lie about or hide their drinking from others. Their thoughts may repeatedly turn towards when they can drink again, and they may begin to have trouble keeping up with life, work, and social responsibilities.
 
Stage Three: Middle Alcoholic
At this stage, an individual’s disease usually becomes apparent to others and their drinking begins to take a physical toll on their body. They may lose or gain weight, develop facial redness, become increasingly irritable, and have trouble maintaining good sleep habits. An individual at this stage may also become reckless with their drinking and indulge at inappropriate times. As a result, relationships, both personal and professional may suffer.  
 
Stage Four: Late Alcoholic
At this stage, alcohol has become the individual’s priority over family, career, friends, and health. Serious physical damage caused by drinking, including cirrhosis, dementia, and paranoia may be apparent. Efforts to quit drinking will lead to hallucinations and tremors.
 
Regardless of what stage an individual has reached with their drinking, alcoholism can be treated with therapy, recovery programs, detoxification, and rehabilitation.
 
When you talk about the struggle as a disease or a disorder, we are now talking about science and chemistry. We know that when we use drugs or alcohol it releases Dopamine in the brain causing us to feel pleasure. With how stressful life has been for everyone in 2020 it makes sense people are trying to self-sooth. However, what we want people to know is that when we use a mood-altering substance to feel better, we create another problem.
 
Before speaking to someone about their drinking, you may wish to speak to a healthcare provider experienced in addiction. They can offer guidance on when and how best to bring up the subject, what specific language to use, and what kind of reaction you might expect.  It is important to remember that alcoholism is a disease, not a choice. In much the same way one cannot give up cancer, your loved one cannot give up alcohol without dedicated and professional help. 
 
Lori Vadakin is the director of Outpatient Mental Health and Substance Use Services at United Counseling Service. United Counseling Service provides outpatient counseling and addictions services, emergency mental health services, extensive rehabilitation services, home and school-based services, employment services for people recovering from mental illness or with developmental disabilities and Early Childhood Services. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, UCS has developed a warm line available 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday - Friday for anyone living in Bennington County. For more information about UCS visitwww.ucsvt.org or call 802-442-5491.


 

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