Categories: AlcoholUncategorized

The Stages of Alcoholism: How Someone Becomes an Alcoholic

There are many different hellacious substances that continue to affect our population when it comes to addiction. Many of these substances are illicit, but there are also numerous legal substances that are problematic in this avenue. One of the most highly abused substances within our nation is legal and socially accepted, which would be alcohol. In fact, the legality and social acceptance of alcohol is part of what contributes to the high rates of abuse. This is not to say that alcohol should be outlawed, but only that the social acceptance sort of allows many cases of abuse to be overseen. For instance, college students often participate in heavy binge drinking, but this is just considered “part of the college life.” As a person continues to heavily consume alcohol unchecked, it can easily lead to that individual potentially becoming an alcoholic. When it comes to developing alcoholism, there are actually a few different stages of alcoholism that an individual typically goes through.

Alcohol Use Disorder

The title of “alcoholism” may be one of the most commonly used terms for this condition, but it is actually not the correct clinical descriptor. The more formal term used for this condition is Alcohol Use Disorder. This clinically employed term is more detailed than the blanket title of alcoholism. When it comes to professionals diagnosing or labeling, they must have a series of recognizable and identifiable traits or symptoms before they can really call something a certain condition. This is where the term and details of alcohol use disorder come into play, as it includes an isolated 11 factors that allow for properly diagnosing and determination of severity. The factors of alcohol use and stages of alcoholism, along with severity, break down something like this:

  • Displaying at Least Two of the Eleven Factors in the Past Year – The individual is considered to have an alcohol use disorder.
  • Two or Three Factors – This is considered to be a mild alcohol use disorder.
  • Four or Five Factors – Considered to be a moderate alcohol use disorder.
  • Six or More Factors – At this point, the alcohol use disorder is considered to be a severe case.

We will not go into the entire list of factors that are part of alcohol use disorder, but some of the recognizable ones are:

  • Requiring more alcohol to achieve the desired effects.
  • The individual continues to drink despite the adverse consequences it is having on their relationships.
  • Participating in some risky type of behavior as a result of drinking alcohol, such as swimming, driving, unprotected sex, operating machinery, or fighting.
  • Alcohol consumption interfering with one’s responsibilities, such as family, school, or work.

Of course, everyone reacts differently to alcohol, but the above stages of alcoholism are experienced by the majority of users.

Alcohol Dependence and Withdrawal

The factors of an alcohol use disorder encompass both the psychological and physical aspects. There is an important distinction to be made between these two, being that physical dependence and addiction are not the same things. Physical dependence is often a large part of addiction, but it is not identical to it. An individual could be physically dependent upon a drug or alcohol without necessarily being psychologically dependent on it as well. Of course, those struggling with alcohol use disorder often have a physical dependence, but they will also likely have psychological effects. Physical dependence typically begins with the development of a tolerance, meaning that the person will have to consume larger amounts of alcohol to achieve the desired effects. As the individual continues to consume alcohol and build a larger tolerance, they may begin to experience withdrawal symptoms when attempting to cease drinking or if they drink much less than usual. The person may then drink to stop these withdrawal symptoms from occurring, which perpetuates the behavior.

Some of the withdrawal symptoms of alcohol include:

  • Confusion
  • Tremors
  • Increased Heart Rate
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Sweating
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures

If one has reached the point of physical dependence, they should be admitted into a detox center. Some may think they can go cold turkey and detox at home, but this is never a good idea. Realistically, alcohol detox can potentially be very dangerous and it could actually result in death when done incorrectly. With an inpatient detox center, an individual can receive a properly formatted detox and they will also be constantly monitored through the whole process. This way, if any complications were to arise, there will be professional staff that can rapidly react. The staff can also help to make the person as comfortable as possible during the difficult withdrawal period.

Negative Impacts of Alcohol Use Disorder

A large part of alcohol use disorder is when the person loses control of their drinking and it begins to interfere with their normal living or responsibilities. This is where the individual will begin to display 3-5 of the above factors and they do not necessarily have to be physically dependent at this point. They could be too drunk or hungover to go to work several times, not take care of familial needs, or their school performance may begin to suffer. If this continues to be regular behavior, the individual should be gotten into proper addiction treatment, as it can help them to break the alcohol use disorder that is taking over their life. While some are able to achieve this on their own, others often require treatment to help them escape the destructive cycle.

A person’s intent behind drinking can also potentially play a role in the development of an alcohol use disorder. If they have the idea that they “need” alcohol to have a good time, be social, numb emotional pain, or ease life difficulties, this may be more likely to lead down the road of dependence and alcohol use disorder. The person could reach for alcohol for one of the above reasons, and if this behavior continues, it may become their standard operating procedure to seek alcohol for any difficulty or social situation.

New Drinkers and Stages of Alcoholism

The development of an alcohol use disorder is a somewhat unpredictable situation, as some people that display more factors at a certain time might not maintain that level. For instance, a new alcohol user could display around 2 of the 11 factors, but they may also simply not know their limits yet and their behavior could easily level out. Realistically, it can never be concretely known whether occasional or social alcohol consumption could lead to an alcohol use disorder down the road. Those new to it may just be experimenting or trying it out and then greatly decrease their intake after the novelty wears off. This could be applied to the college student example mentioned above, as those who party for a bit in college may not continue that behavior afterward. Although, drinking heavily like these college students and others can bring about stages of alcoholism poisoning, which can have hellacious health impacts. It is not uncommon for people to be admitted into emergency care for various stages of alcohol poisoning.

Addiction can be an incredibly hellacious condition to struggle with, but it is never impossible to overcome. Through treatment, an individual can come to understand their addiction and break free of its hold on them. This is exactly what Best Drug Rehabilitation is here to help with. We can recommend multiple modalities, and we create a custom program for each person.  Every addiction is unique in various ways and it should be treated as such. We help thousands to overcome addiction every year and would like to do the same for you or your loved one. Call us today and one of our staff members can answer any questions that you may have about the stages of alcoholism or about our services.

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