A man looks at a bottle of alcohol

Out of all mind-altering substances, alcohol remains the number one most popular substance of abuse in America. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 86.4% of adults 18 and over reported alcohol use at some point in their lives in 2015.

Of all adults aged 18 and over, the survey found that 6.2% suffered from Alcohol Use Disorder (1).  For those in the 6.2% who suffer from alcoholism, it can sometimes be difficult to see the problem as it is starting.

Alcoholism can be broken down into four stages that make identifying the signs and symptoms of the disorder easier. Here we take a look at the four stages of alcoholism.

The Early Stage

The early stage of alcoholism is typically the most challenging for the individual to recognize A man sits at a bar with an alcoholic drink in his handthat they have a problem. During this stage, the individual may still appear to be a normal drinker, but differences may start emerging. Some of the signs of early alcoholism include:

  • Higher tolerance to alcohol
  • Drinking during occasions that may not be considered socially “normal”
  • Drinking alone
  • Using alcohol as a coping mechanism
  • Setting limits on the amount of alcohol to drink each night, only to break them
  • Beginning to experience mental cravings

The Middle Stage

The primary symptom of the middle stage of alcoholism is the development of a physical addiction to alcohol. This means that the individual will experience a withdrawal syndrome if they suddenly stop using alcohol.

The withdrawal syndrome produced by alcoholism includes the following signs and symptoms (2):

  • Seizures, which can be life threatening
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Cloudy mind
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Delirium tremens

The Late Stage

The late stage of alcoholism is defined by serious consequences both physically and socially beginning to develop.

At this stage, severe consequences are only a matter of time if the alcoholism is left untreated. Some of the symptoms of late stage alcoholism include:

  • Routinely driving while intoxicated
  • Drastic changes in social life, such as isolation or loss of friends
  • Visibly noticeable changes in appearance as a direct result of alcoholism (for example, puffy face, jaundice or weight gain)
  • Beginning of serious health issues
  • Financial issues
  • Troubles at place of employment
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The End Stage

The end stage of alcoholism is ultimately death. Alcoholism is a progressive, fatal illness that when left untreated results in death. While recovery is always still possible while the individual is living, alcoholism ideally should be treated before reaching this stage.

Final Note

This article is intended for those considering a new way of life, free of the pain of drug and alcohol addiction. For more information on recovery and anyone seeking help with addiction and substance abuse problems, please call True Recovery at (844) 744-8783 or visit us online.


  1. https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-facts-and-statistics
  2. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000764.htm