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The Stages of Alcoholism

Alcoholism does not develop overnight. Instead, alcohol abuse is typically broken up into distinct stages that represent the progression of the disease. Although not every experience with alcohol use disorder follows the same trajectory, many alcoholics begin to develop an addiction after engaging in long-term alcohol abuse.

Each stage has its own signs and symptoms that help illustrate the severity of a drinking problem. As alcohol use disorder progresses from one stage to the next, you can begin to recognize the various ways in which alcoholism begins to take over different aspects of a person’s life.

Understanding the different phases of alcoholism is essential to recognizing when you or a loved one has a problem. This in turn will allow you to find the right treatment for your specific needs. Here’s everything you need to know about the stages of alcohol abuse and how they shape the path to addiction.

1. Occasional Alcohol Use

In the early stages of alcohol addiction, someone may only engage in experimental drinking. They might try various types of alcoholic beverages and test their limits to see how much they can handle. While this stage can occur in any age group, it is most commonly seen among teenagers who are new to alcohol and often take drinking too far.

Another characteristic of occasional drug use is binge drinking. For men, this is defined as consuming five or more alcoholic beverages over the span of two hours. For women, binge drinking is defined as consuming four or more alcoholic beverages within the same time frame.

Because many binge drinkers do not drink excessively on a regular basis, they mistakenly believe that their behavior is harmless. However, even occasional binge drinking can lead to extremely dangerous consequences and may pave the way for alcohol addiction.

2. Frequent Drinking

Over time, occasional alcohol use may begin to evolve into frequent drinking. This stage is largely determined by your personal lifestyle. For example, if you used to limit your drinking to special occasions but now drink every weekend, this is considered a significant increase in drinking frequency.

There are various reasons why a person may start consuming alcohol more regularly. Some alcohol users, particularly young adults, might cave into peer pressure and drink more often to avoid being shunned by their friends. Meanwhile, other people may turn to alcohol as a source of relief from stress, anxiety, loneliness or depression.

When alcohol makes a person feel better, this positively reinforces drinking for them. As a result, they continue to turn to alcohol whenever they are bored, lonely or unhappy. This feeds their drinking habit and can quickly lead to alcohol abuse.

3. Problem Drinking

Once alcohol has begun to occupy a larger role in a person’s life, their drinking habit is considered a problem. Problem drinking refers to alcohol use that disrupts a person’s life in notable ways. Some common examples of problem drinking interfering with daily life include:

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Increased anxiety or depression
  • Blackouts
  • Continuing to drink despite becoming sick from alcohol
  • Neglecting important responsibilities as a result of alcohol use
  • Becoming distant from friends or family members

If you notice that your behavior has been changing in any of these ways or in other significant ways, you might be struggling with problem drinking. It’s important to seek out the help you need before your alcohol use takes a greater toll on your daily life.

4. Alcohol Dependence and Addiction

Alcohol dependence typically precedes a full-on addiction. Once you’ve become dependent on alcohol, your drinking habit has begun to take over your normal routine. At this point, you are likely aware of the the consequences of alcohol abuse in your everyday life. However, because you’re already deeply involved in your addiction at this stage, you may feel that you’ve lost all self-control and are unable to quit drinking.

If this behavior persists for long enough, your alcohol dependence can soon develop into alcohol addiction. Those who are addicted to alcohol experience a physical and psychological need to drink. Unlike binge drinkers and other occasional drinkers, alcoholics drink to satisfy a physical urge rather than to seek pleasure.

Dependence evolves into addiction when a person is unable to overcome their reliance on alcohol. Even though they may have lost their job, destroyed their most valued relationships or entered into a state of financial distress, someone who suffers from alcohol addiction fails to cut back on drinking or stop completely. This is when the need for addiction treatment becomes urgent.

Conquer Alcohol Abuse With Personalized Treatment

Alcoholism is not always easy to detect. Because it transpires in stages, you might not realize that you or someone you know has a problem until it becomes more severe. It’s important to be aware of the four stages of alcohol use disorder so that you know which signs to look for.

When you’re ready to take the first step toward conquering your addiction, reach out to Topsail Addiction Treatment today. Our highly skilled and dedicated team of experts will work to create a personalized treatment program to meet your specific addiction needs.

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