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Signs and Symptoms of End-Stage Alcoholism

You may have an idea of what it means to struggle with alcoholism. Through the media or our own experiences, the image of alcoholism that many people have is often of someone in the later stages of the disease. You might imagine someone who drinks all day, hides their drinking from loved ones, or who does dangerous things while drinking. The truth of alcoholism is that it tends to happen in stages that progress over time. From the early stages to end-stage alcoholism, each stage has certain defining patterns and behaviors.

End-stage alcoholism is a serious condition that almost always requires medical care and treatment to overcome. Understanding the four stages of alcoholism might mean that you can identify that you or a loved one has an unhealthy relationship with alcohol. The sooner you can recognize a problem, the better chance you have at overcoming it.

Understanding the Four Stages of Alcoholism

Alcoholism sometimes starts slowly and grows into a larger problem if left untreated. Many people do not recognize the signs of an unhealthy relationship with alcohol until they have begun to suffer serious consequences. Like most problems, getting support and treatment early can prevent the problem from growing and can help you avoid serious consequences.


In this first stage, a person may begin to drink more often or drink more during each sitting. Binge drinking is an early indicator of early-stage alcoholism. People may drink to help them dull uncomfortable emotions like anxiety, boredom, or sadness.


This stage is marked by cravings and the beginnings of dependence. People in this stage may suffer uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms when they stop drinking or cut back on the amount of alcohol they consume. These symptoms include nausea, anxiety, shakiness, sweating, and increased heart rate.[1] People in this stage may continue to drink to avoid having these symptoms. They may also experience strong cravings for alcohol and increased tolerance.


People display the signs of addiction to alcohol, including:

  • Continuing to drink despite negative consequences
  • Engaging in risky behavior when drinking
  • Spending a lot of time drinking or recovering from drinking
  • Isolating
  • Hiding or being dishonest about drinking
  • Losing interest in other activities
  • Falling behind at work, school, or at home

People may have significant changes to their mood, sleep, or appetite. At this stage, drinking profoundly and negatively affects their life.


During this stage, the person has no control over any aspect of their life and may suffer extreme, irreparable damage to their physical, emotional, and social health. Withdrawal from alcohol could be excruciatingly uncomfortable or dangerous.

Dangers of End-Stage Alcoholism

People in the end-stage of alcoholism are at extreme risk to themselves and others. They are likely to suffer significant damage to their health, and, left untreated, they have a high risk of death from overdose, suicide, or from a physical health condition related to their alcoholism. The damage that end-stage alcoholism does can be significant and long-lasting.

Dangers of End-Stage Alcoholism


People with end-stage alcoholism often suffer from anxiety and depression and are at a higher risk of suicide and self-harm. People often experience brain damage as a result of years of drinking and can suffer from poor memory or difficulty with concentration for the rest of their lives.[2]


End-stage alcoholism is thought to increase people’s risk of heart disease, liver damage, and certain cancers. Withdrawal from alcohol at this stage of alcoholism can be life-threatening, and people who engage in risky behaviors while drinking are more likely to be injured or die in an accident.


End-stage alcoholism makes it impossible to function well at work, in school, or in relationships. People often suffer significant social consequences, lose relationships, and are often unable to work or contribute to their family or community. Many people also suffer legal consequences that can affect them for years.

Getting treatment before reaching this serious point is the best way to avoid these consequences. However, even at this stage, recovery is possible.

Can People Recover From End-Stage Alcoholism?

In short, yes. It is possible to recover from end-stage alcoholism. It is much more difficult than recovering from other stages of alcoholism and requires a strong commitment–and professional treatment.

Addiction treatment usually starts with alcohol detox. This is especially important for end-stage alcoholism as withdrawal symptoms can be dangerous at this stage. After a complete, safe detox, the person must complete a treatment program that can give them the skills to live life without drinking. Treatment usually involves:

  • Education
  • Medical care and/or medications
  • Group support
  • Individual therapy
  • Family therapy and education
  • Holistic therapies
  • Aftercare planning

Addiction is a lifelong condition that can never be cured–only managed. If you recognize any of the signs of alcoholism in your own life or have concerns about a loved one, it is important to explore addiction treatment as soon as possible.

Start Alcohol Treatment in West Palm Beach Today

If you or someone you love struggles with alcoholism, you are not alone. The staff at the Mandala Healing Center offer a range of supportive programs designed to empower you as you recover from addiction.

Do not wait another day for the healing, life-changing treatment you deserve.  If you are ready to take the first step in your recovery journey, we will walk the rest of the way with you. Please call now to speak to one of our admissions counselors.