Alcoholism Stages

Medically Reviewed By Kayla Loibl | Last Edited:  September 29 ,
| 4 Sources

Three Alcoholism Stages Inherent to the Disease

Having no more than a drink or two a day for healthy men and one drink a day for healthy women (non-pregnant) are typically considered acceptable levels of alcohol consumption without incurring consequential health risks.

However, as the frequency or amount of drinking increases, signs of alcohol abuse and dependence become evident. Physical and mental health progressively deteriorates, and individuals may jeopardize family and work responsibilities. Here are the stages of alcoholism that may develop as a consequence.

Early-Stage Alcoholism

The early stages of alcoholism begin when individuals start relying on alcohol to enhance their mood and escape from their problems. They begin thinking more and more about their next drink and from where it will come.

Tolerance levels gradually increase as the body adapts to greater amounts of alcohol. Since a drinker at this stage is often able to function without appearing impaired, it may not be obvious to those around him or her that a drinking problem exists in the early alcoholism stages.

Middle-Stage Alcoholism

The next stage of the disease is earmarked by an increasing need and desire for alcohol. As a result, individuals drink greater quantities and more often, including consumption earlier in the day and/or later into the evening.

The alcoholic is now losing control over drinking, and the body is no longer able to process alcohol the same way it did in the early alcoholism stages.

Relationships at home, work and socially break down, and there can be mounting financial and legal problems. At this point, the drinker may outwardly deny having a drinking problem; while it is apparent to loved ones, friends and co-workers.


End-Stage Alcoholism 

As the disease advances through the stages of alcoholism, the alcoholic becomes obsessed with drinking to the exclusion of nearly everything else. Hangovers, blackouts, stomach and other health-related problems are regular occurrences.

Physical and mental health continues to degrade as the body’s organs become increasingly damaged and functionally impaired.

Does alcohol kill brain cells? - Follow the links to learn how alcohol affects the brain, and for information on wet brain.

Malnutrition also takes its toll. Large amounts of alcohol interfere with the digestive process and inhibit the passage of nutrients to the bloodstream.

Compounding the problem, a damaged liver from consumption prevents nutrients from being converted into a usable form that the body can assimilate. Physical health is quite poor by the time the alcoholic reaches the end alcoholism stages. (Follow this link to learn more about the three types of liver disease caused by alcoholism: alcoholic cirrhosis, alcoholic hepatitis, and steatosis.)

If the alcoholic continues drinking and does not seek treatment, the disease will turn fatal. Whether it be from direct damage to the body's organs and systems, accidents and related injuries, or even suicide, death will likely be the final outcome of the end stages of alcoholism.

Understanding the warning signs of alcoholism can help prevent the disease from progressing through the three stages. Take a look at our alcoholism signs and symptoms section for more information.

For more information about the stages of alcoholism and alcoholism recovery, please contact us.

Lead Writer/Reviewer : Kayla Loibl

Licensed Medical Health Professional 

I am a Mental Health Counselor who is licensed in both New York (LMHC) and North Carolina (LPC). I have been working in the Mental Health field since 2015. I have worked in a residential setting, an outpatient program and an inpatient addictions program. I began working in Long Island, NY and then in Guelph, Ontario after moving to Canada. Read More

Related Information

Definition of an Alcoholic - List of warning signs and facts about alcohol that can help you determine if you or someone you know has a drinking problem. If you have ever asked yourself, am I an alcoholic?, then you probably feel you have some issues with alcohol. Follow the links to learn more.

Stages of Alcoholism - Some believe there are 5 stages of alcoholism, learn more. Follow this link for more details on the long term effects of alcoholism.

Alcoholism Final Stage - Detailed information about end stage alcoholism. During this stage the drinker has lost all control, and needs to drink in order to function.

Alcoholism Effects on the Body - Detailed information on how alcoholism can cause liver damage, brain damage, heart damage, cancer, muscle damage, alcoholic neuropathy, etc. Information about each alcoholism physical symptom including the long-term and short-term health consequences.

Treating Alcoholism - How to find the right treatment. Why it is important to find a specialized program for the treatment of alcoholism.

Alcoholism and Diabetes - Learn how alcoholism can affect your diabetes. Diabetes alcoholism information, precautions and advice.

Alcoholism and Death - How and why alcoholism can potentially be fatal. Find out how alcoholism effects body organs such as the liver, brain, heart, etc.

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