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End-stage alcoholism is the final stage of alcoholism. This stage is the most destructive. Typically, an individual reaches end-stage alcoholism after years of alcohol abuse. At this point, people who have spent years drinking may have developed numerous health and mental conditions in addition to their alcohol abuse. The individual may have isolated themselves, lost their job, or damaged major organs in the body. Another consequence is the risk to their overall health as the organs shut down.
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Alcohol abuse has many stages. The stages of alcohol abuse are broken down into 6 categories. These are:
The first stage is social drinking. This is a comparatively non-threatening level of drinking, which may not always lead to alcohol abuse. This is generally consuming a few drinks when out with friends.
The second stage is binge drinking. Binge drinking is a common practice affecting 1 in 6 American adults, resulting in the consumption of 17 billion drinks each year. Binge drinking can be temporary or occur often, sometimes signaling the threat of future heavy drinking or alcohol abuse.
The third stage is heavy drinking. At this stage, the person has taken too much of a liking to alcohol. They may drink more frequently each day or drink excessive amounts when drinking socially. Having more than 5 drinks in 2 hours is commonplace (and problematic).
The fourth stage is alcohol dependency. At this point, the drinker depends on alcohol to feel “normal” and may experience negative symptoms or feelings when they are not drinking. This dependency may have underlying emotional and mental motivations.
The fifth stage is addiction to alcohol or alcoholism. When a person has become an alcoholic, they begin to exhibit a variety of behaviors that have a negative impact on their health and personal and professional lives. For example, alcoholics will continue to drink despite it causing them negative consequences.
Lastly the final stage, known as the end-stage of alcohol abuse, is the point where the alcoholic is experiencing very serious health and mental issues. It could end in death.
End-stage alcoholism typically presents a number of health complications. First the liver becomes damaged, possibly permanently. The liver gains fats and inflammation, eventually leading to liver scarring. The result of the damage is often liver disease or cirrhosis.
The damaged liver can cause other complications in the body since it is a vital organ. The liver is responsible for over 500 tasks to ensure the body is functioning as healthy as possible. Other health complications, like heart problems and stroke, stem from chronic alcohol abuse in end-stage alcoholism. Risks of dementia and cancer increase. Even brain damage and hepatitis can occur in end-stage alcoholics.
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Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome (WKS), also called alcohol dementia, occurs most frequently in end-stage alcoholism. With this syndrome, there is a shortage of vitamin B-1, which manifests as dementia-like traits. Also called Wernicke Encephalopathy, this condition produces leg tremors, staggering, vision changes, and problems maintaining balance. Lastly, people are often confused and have problems staying sharp or learning new things. Drooping lids, hallucinations, and double vision are also symptoms associated with this condition.
In the end-stages of alcoholism there are noticeable health conditions, like jaundice from liver failure. There are also more subtle signs like itchy skin, fluid retention, fatigue, and bleeding. If you know someone who drinks regularly and has these symptoms, call a treatment provider to discuss treatment options.
Alcoholism varies greatly. Sadly, many people use alcohol to heal trauma, for courage in areas where they are insecure, or in combination with other drugs. These unhealthy coping mechanisms only complicate and worsen an alcohol use disorder.
If someone increases their drinking significantly, there could be a problem. Heavy drinking is a threatening practice which can easily transition into alcoholism or an alcohol use disorder. If you or a loved one denies alcohol abuse or cannot cut back on drinking, there may be a danger of alcoholism.
If you or a loved one suffers from end-stage alcoholism, there is hope for recovery. Future patients can gain knowledge on different facilities and discover what treatment options are available. Contact a treatment provider today.
Krystina Murray has received a B.A. in English at Georgia State University, has over 5 years of professional writing and editing experience, and over 15 years of overall writing experience. She enjoys traveling, fitness, crafting, and spreading awareness of addiction recovery to help people transform their lives.
Reviewed by Certified Addiction Professional
A survivor of addiction himself, David Hampton is a Certified Professional Recovery Coach (CPRC) and a member of the National Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors (NAADAC).
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