Diagnosis of alcohol use disorder is usually assessed with 11 factors provided by the DSM-5, and it is often used to detect how severe the addiction is. Essentially, if someone has experienced or is experiencing two out of 11 of the factors throughout the year, the person can be considered to have a disorder associated with alcohol use. The severity grade is split into three categories; Two or three symptoms would mean a mild grade, Four to five as moderate, and lastly, six or more would deem the disorder as severe. We will be exploring the three stages of alcoholism and what it entails, mainly the early, chronic, and end-stage. And if you or someone close to you need help, be sure to seek professional help here.
The Early Stage
DSM-5 classifies alcohol users who are just starting out to have 0 to 2 of the 11 symptoms, but the tricky part of this stage is that it is not known if the occasional drink or drinking with friends will lead to a potential addiction to alcohol. In this early stage, the user in question would have to have been introduced to a variety of alcohol and have mixed or tried them in different ways.
These individuals who are starting to experiment with alcohol are typically teens or young adults where social drinking is an activity often partaken in. This plays a huge part in the individual’s introduction to alcohol, as there is always a huge gathering of people drinking. Although they may not drink regularly, the act of binge drinking is enough for an alcohol use disorder to develop. Binge drinking is said to happen when a person’s alcohol content in their blood reaches 0.08 or more within two hours. It strongly depends on a female’s body weight, and the average number of drinks is normally around four. For men, they would need to have consumed around five drinks under two hours. Binge drinkers typically go over the supposed limit and have an abnormally high level of alcohol content in their blood.
There are multiple reasons why binge drinkers continue to consume heavy amounts of alcohol even past the initial experimental stage. This can be attributed to factors such as genetics or a certain home environment. It has been proven that children coming from a family with a history of alcohol use disorder are four times more inclined to be diagnosed with the disorder, and certain types of negative home situations can influence a child to alcohol abuse. These can range from witnessing a parent personally abusing alcohol or drugs, to a child observing an adult with depression. Alcohol is often sought as a form of escapism and turning to alcohol just to ease symptoms of mental health disorders is stated to be a common reason.
Additionally, the amount of drinks people down within the time given can definitely play a part. For women, more than three drinks a day or seven a week; While for men, more than three drinks a day or more than 14 a week will make them prone to developing an alcohol-related disorder.
The Chronic Stage
This grade of alcohol use disorder requires six or more factors out of the 11 set in the DSM-5. Typically, people in this stage would usually need to receive medical attention or intervention in order to properly treat the addiction.
There is a group of people who consume alcohol unrestrainedly called “highly functioning”. As the name suggests, these people who abuse alcohol regularly are able to complete their daily tasks exceedingly well, go to work normally, and appear normal and well. Approximately 20 percent of alcohol abusers can be deemed as highly functioning. However, continued drinking will show its effects sooner or later and a highly functioning individual is not completely exempt from the negative side effects of chronic drinking.
They may face a plethora of ruinous outcomes such as deteriorating health, relationship jeopardy, and even an unpredictable employment position. It is very likely for health troubles and conditions to develop due to the heavy chronic drinking and they can range from mild to severe. Cardiovascular disease, dementia, cancer, high blood pressure, depression, and nerve damage are some of the serious health issues that may occur. Some may already have existing conditions, and alcohol abuse will only serve to worsen them. It should be noted that alcohol abuse can play a part in a condition manifesting, and untreated disorders will inevitably cause things to exacerbate.
In truth, alcohol is a weapon that may harm your life in every way when you have reached the point of no return. In the most severe stage of alcohol use disorder and as the morbidity of the name suggests, the individual is drinking to survive at the end. Although they may have started out getting by daily to drink, this is where everything becomes reversed. They do not have any control over their drinking and the withdrawal symptoms that comes from heavy chronic drinking are sometimes too painful to endure that they would just choose to drink the pain away.
At this stage, it is likely that the person has developed a disease in their liver of some sort. Usually, Cirrhosis of the liver happens after multiple years of abusing your liver. An individual who does not stop consuming alcohol will grow scar tissues in their liver. The existing scar tissue will subsequently clog blood flow and the body’s capability of detoxification from the blood will be reduced. This is among other impaired abilities, such as processing the necessary nutrients a body needs and absorbing particular vitamins.
An individual in this stage would be more prone to falling and being involved in accidents due to their poor balance and coordination skills. Mostly, if a fall is fatal, it is likely because of bleeding that occurs in the brain. These people are also at high risk of purposely self-harming themselves. Feeling hopeless after realizing that they no longer have any control over their drinking problem can drive them to take drastic measures. Withdrawal is also a common reason why the end-stage is deathly; the depression that is commonly induced by alcohol abuse can motivate these people to wish to end their pain and suffering, as well as those around them, as soon as possible.
Do remember that every stage of alcohol use disorder can be treated and abstinence from alcohol can help to stabilize your symptoms. It is never too late for you to seek professional help and achieve complete recovery.