In Which Stage Of Alcoholism Does The Drinker Face Serious Health Problems?

We all know how alcohol is harmful to our health, yet we continue to drink. Most folks do not consider moderate drinking to be a problem. But when alcohol use spirals out of control, you may find yourself on a deadly path to addiction.

Every year, there are more than 140,000 deaths due to excessive alcohol use in the United States. This makes alcohol one of the leading causes of preventable deaths, behind tobacco, poor diet, and illicit drugs. 

Alcoholism and alcohol abuse are both classified as alcohol use disorders, which affect people of all ages and stages of life. The harmful effects of alcohol lead to a high burden of disease and have major physical and economic consequences.  

This blog will explain the most asked question, “In which stage of alcoholism does the drinker face serious health problems?”

What is Alcoholism?

Alcoholism is defined as an addiction to drinking alcohol like beer, vodka, whiskey, and rum. In other words, it is a psychological and physical dependence on alcohol that can interfere with your lifestyle.

Alcohol is a psychoactive substance that has dependence-producing properties. It has been commonly used in many cultures for decades.  

Alcoholism develops as a result of alcohol consumption when a person continues to drink despite the negative life and health consequences. 

What are the Stages of Alcoholism? 

The progression of alcoholism is often divided into distinct stages, each with its own set of specific behavioral patterns and physical symptoms. To understand the main question at hand, let's first go through the stages of alcoholism in detail: 

Stage #1: Pre-alcoholic (Binge Drinking)

This happens before alcohol is ever a problem. It's hard to identify since alcohol has not yet caused any problems in your body. That means drinking has not become compulsive. 

This stage is known as the “at-risk stage.” Teens usually encounter it in their 20s through peer pressure, social events, and parties. 

Binge drinking or social drinking is common at this phase. On the weekends, people might indulge in heavy drinking at parties, but they might abstain from alcohol the rest of the week.

However, people at this stage may eventually turn to alcohol to cope with daily stress and life tragedies.

At this point, tolerance develops, and it may be difficult to determine whether a person is a social drinker due to the lack of observable symptoms. 

Stage #2: Early alcoholic stage (Prodromal)

The next stage is early alcoholism, also referred to as the transitional period. Here, people's drinking habits will become cyclical. 

Their problem with drinking spreads to other aspects of their lives, such as relationships with family and friends, which encourages them to drink even more. Issues with health and work can start to arise at this point. 

During this stage, the person may experience memory blackouts or lapses, severe hangovers, feelings of guilt, and the development of minor diseases.  

Stage #3: Middle Alcoholism

This is quite a serious stage. The drinking pattern worsens in the middle alcoholic phase. You may avoid attending social gatherings to consume alcohol. During this stage, you may feel guilty about drinking and try to hide your drinking behaviors. 

In addition, you may ignore your personal and professional responsibilities. For example – you may skip work, forget to pick up your children, complete certain tasks, and become irritated. 

You may also notice physical indicators of alcohol addiction, such as facial redness, sluggishness, weight gain or loss, and stomach bloating

Stage #4: End-stage alcoholic

Now comes the most frightening stage – the final stage of alcoholism. At this stage, alcohol has taken over the user's life. This stage indicates that if no action is taken, death may occur at any unexpected time.

Years of heavy alcohol intake have resulted in serious health and quality-of-life difficulties.

The person has completely lost control over drinking alcohol. At this point, their body continuously needs alcohol in their system to function normally. Recovering is quite tricky. 

During the final stage, you'll experience the following signs:

  • Feeling a strong craving or urge to drink alcohol
  • Alcohol withdrawal symptoms (nausea, shaking, sweating)
  • Lack of control 
  • Getting into risky situations Ex. drinking while driving, or unsafe sex
  • Poor sleep quality
  • Increased fatigue 
  • Issues in personal relationships
  • Frequent hallucinations
  • Impaired memory or concentration 
  • Yellowing of skin (Jaundice)
  • Giving up or reducing social and work activities and hobbies  

So, In Which Stage Of Alcoholism Does The Drinker Face Serious Health Problems?

Now that we have discussed all four stages of alcoholism, you can guess the answer yourself. The last and final stage of alcoholism is the most dangerous one, where the drinker faces serious health issues. 

It is a reversal situation; rather than living to drink, a person in the end stage is more likely to drink to live.

Some of the serious health issues are:

  • Heart disease (stroke, high blood pressure, arrhythmias, cardiomyopathy)
  • Liver damage ( Alcoholic hepatitis (AH), cirrhosis, fibrosis, fatty liver)
  • Anemia
  • Malnutrition
  • Seizures
  • Diabetes
  • Cancer (Esophageal cancer, liver cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer)
  • Mental health issues like depression and anxiety
  • Brain damage (central nervous system issue, korsakoff syndrome) 
  • Digestive system complications
  • Musculoskeletal system issues (Fracture, gout, skeletal muscle myopathy)

Should I Consult a Doctor? 

If you're drinking in moderation, i.e., less than two drinks, then there's nothing to worry about. While drinking alcohol in moderation is acceptable for healthy adults, exceeding this limit can have negative consequences for your life and long-term health.

So, if you think you are struggling to quit drinking or are in the final stage of alcoholism, you need to consult your doctor and seek treatment immediately. 

The Bottom Line 

Hopefully, we answered your question, “In which stage of alcoholism does the drinker face serious health problems?” The answer is obvious. 

As you can see, drinkers may face serious health consequences in the last stage of alcoholism. It's no surprise that excessive alcohol drinking can impair your breathing, heart rate, and gag reflex, potentially resulting in coma and death.

If your drinking has caused you to do things you would never do again, and you regret those actions, you may have a drinking problem. The same logic applies to drinking that negatively impacts your home, school, and work lives. 

No matter how tough it may be to confront a drinking problem, it is never too early or too late to seek professional assistance. Remember that even if you have been struggling with alcohol for a long time, you can still recover.


1. What is the leading cause of death among alcoholics?

Ans: The major causes of death among alcoholics are alcohol poisoning, liver damage, cancer, car accidents, heart failure, and violence.

2. Which part of the body is often diseased in alcoholics?

Ans: Liver. A person's liver sustains the greatest degree of tissue damage by binge drinking, as it's the primary site of ethanol metabolism. However, alcohol also affects the brain, kidneys, and lungs. 

3. Can alcohol cause sudden death? 

Ans: Yes, alcohol can cause arrhythmias, including prolongation of QT interval, which is linked to sudden cardiac death. 

4. What is a heavy drinker?

Ans: Heavy drinking or binge drinking means consuming more than five drinks at a time. For women, consuming more than four drinks is considered heavy.

5. What is the average age of death for alcoholics?

Ans: Alcoholics have an average life expectancy of 47-53 years (men) and 50-80 years (women). They die 28 years earlier than non-alcoholic people.  

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Oliver Nelson

Oliver Nelson is a New York based Health Specialist Writer who completed his graduation from Syracuse University back in 2015. His writings were published in the top Healthcare brands in the United States.

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