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The 5 Stages of Alcoholism: When Is It A Problem?

When does drinking become a problem? There are five stages of alcoholism throughout the progression of the disease. If you’re questioning if your drinking is a problem, then you are probably in one of these stages.

Buckhead Behavioral Health can help you overcome alcoholism no matter what stage you are in. Visit our admissions page today to get started.

What Are the 5 Stages of Alcoholism?

Alcoholism doesn’t happen overnight. Most people go through various stages of alcoholism before they realize they have a problem. But, by understanding the stages, you can quit drinking before things worsen and get out of control.

#1. Pre-Alcoholism

No one ever sets out to become an alcoholic. It usually begins with heavy social drinking or binge drinking. Oftentimes, this is common among teens and young people—and this behavior makes them more likely to become alcoholics later in life.

This can be confusing—what turns social drinking into an alcohol addiction? One primary difference is why the person drinks. When you drink to alter your mood and personality, to manage physical pain, to quell anxiety, or to mask mental health issues, you are in a pre-alcoholism stage.

#2. Early Alcoholism

During this stage of alcoholism, you start behaving in ways that protect your drinking problem. For example, you could minimize the effects of alcohol on your life. Drinking starts to become a compulsive behavior at this stage.

You’ll also experience negative consequences, such as blacking out or frequent hangovers. However, you’re still able to function in everyday life and hide your drinking problem from others. In addition, most of your social activities involve drinking.

It’s important to note here that you can quit in the earlier stages of alcoholism. There is a myth that you must hit “rock bottom” before getting help. So, if you notice that drinking is affecting you, reach out for help now before you advance to the next stage.

[Recommended: “How Long Does It Take to Get Addicted to Alcohol?“]

#3. Chronic Alcoholism

While you were once able to convince others—and yourself—that your drinking wasn’t a problem, you can’t deny it anymore. When you reach the stage of chronic alcoholism, drinking starts to cause significant problems in your life. Relationships suffer, work problems arise, and you could even get into legal trouble.

As you experience these consequences, you might try to cut back or quit. In fact, you might succeed at doing so—but only for a short time until the cycle restarts. Without professional help or a support group, you won’t be able to stop during this stage.

#4. Full-Blown Alcoholism

This is also called “end-stage” alcoholism. When you have full-blown alcoholism, you feel the need to drink throughout the entire day. If you can’t drink, you feel on edge and obsess about when you can get your next drink.

During this stage, you might have severe withdrawal symptoms when you stop drinking for a short period of time. These severe symptoms, called delirium tremens (DTs) include hallucinations, seizures, and tremors. Still, despite the negative health and social consequences, you cannot stop drinking without professional help at this stage.

#5. Recovery

The last of the stages of alcoholism is recovery. Sometimes, going to rehab isn’t a choice when you’re in the full-blown stage of alcoholism. For instance, you might be sent to a treatment center after multiple DUI arrests or following medical care for alcohol-related health conditions.

Or you finally accept the reality of your drinking and reach out for the help that you need. Regardless of when you notice you have a drinking problem—whether in the early stages or during full-blown alcoholism—you can start your recovery.

Recovery is a long-term process of overcoming and managing a chronic health condition. This stage can sometimes include relapsing, which means you start drinking again. But, as you learn more about your addiction and its underlying causes, you can more easily recognize the signs of relapse and seek the support you need to stay sober.

How Is Alcoholism Treated?

Alcoholism is treated through multiple levels of care to help you succeed in long-term recovery.

Alcoholism, also called alcohol use disorder (AUD) or alcohol addiction, is a type of substance use disorder (SUD). When you have a SUD, you’ll need professional support with medical and psychological interventions to overcome your disorder. It is more accurate to say that you’ll recover from a SUD than be cured of it because it is a chronic condition that must be managed daily.

Alcohol addiction treatment involves the following levels of care:

  • Alcohol Detox: During an alcohol detox program, you get psychological and medication attention to manage withdrawal symptoms. This is a critical step in early recovery. Without a detox program, you risk life-threatening symptoms, especially if your addiction is severe.
  • Residential Rehab: Inpatient or residential rehab is the next step after alcohol detox. You’ll live within a treatment facility for 30-90 days to lay the foundation for long-term recovery.
  • Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP): Most people enter a partial hospitalization program (PHP) after inpatient rehab. PHP programs involve recovery groups, individual therapy, psychoeducational, and peer support for 6-8 hours per day, six days a week.
  • Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP): The next step down from PHP is an intensive outpatient program (IOP). You’ll attend an IOP program for about half the time as a PHP. Thus, you’ll still get a significant amount of treatment but have more flexibility to tend to other responsibilities in your life.
  • Outpatient Program (OP): Following an IOP program, you might have lingering issues related to your addiction. This can include things like relationship problems, low self-esteem, or an underlying mental health disorder. You can continue seeing a therapist for hourly sessions once a week or less during outpatient rehab.
  • Alumni Programs: It’s important to stay connected to the recovery community—even after active treatment. Alumni programs are a great way to stay engaged in recovery while helping others start their journey.

Alcoholism Treatment in Atlanta, GA

Alcoholism is a disease that worsens over time. Sometimes, what seems like social drinking escalates and then becomes problematic. However, no matter which of the stages of alcoholism you’re in, Buckhead Behavioral Health is here to help.

Contact us today to begin alcohol addiction treatment in Atlanta, Georgia.

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