What is End-Stage Alcoholism?

What is End-Stage Alcoholism

Alcohol is the most commonly abused substance in America. While occasional alcohol use is fine, some people have a hard time controlling how much they drink. When you cannot manage your alcohol consumption, you are struggling with an addiction to alcohol.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), 29.5 million people suffered from alcoholism in 2022.

Alcoholism can be broken down into four stages: pre-alcoholic, early alcoholic, middle alcoholic, and end-stage alcoholic. When you are in the last stage of alcoholism, you are already experiencing many of the health problems associated with heavy drinking. In other words, you might deal with heart disease, liver damage, and even seizures.

If you or a loved one is in end-stage alcoholism, it’s time to seek help. Professional addiction treatment can offer the tools, support, and health care you need to recover.

What are the Stages of Alcoholism?

Alcohol use disorder occurs in stages. Being aware of the stages of alcohol abuse can help you determine how severe your drinking has become. You should always seek treatment to stop drinking as soon as you realize you have a problem.

The stages of alcoholism include:


Pre-alcoholism occurs before you begin your problematic relationship with alcohol. To explain, this stage is basically a warning sign that you are likely to develop alcoholism.

During this stage, it is common to use alcohol to cope with stress, negative emotions, or cope with social events. You might use alcohol to unwind after a stressful workday or improve your social skills when you are out with friends.

Early-Stage Alcoholism

Early alcoholism begins when you transition from social drinking to binge drinking. Instead of having a few beers to feel more social, you are drinking in excess and experiencing frequent blackouts.

Early-stage alcoholism is easier to spot than the pre-alcoholic stage. If you notice that you are drinking more than you can handle when you go out, it’s time to evaluate your relationship with alcohol.

Middle-Stage Alcoholism

The middle alcoholic phase is characterized by an obvious problem with alcohol. Your friends and family might express their concerns about the way you are drinking. However, you might be dealing with denial and rationalization, causing you to avoid treatment.

The common signs of middle-stage alcoholism include:

  • Continuing to drink despite negative impacts at home, school, or work
  • Downplaying your loved one’s concerns with your alcohol use
  • Drinking in risky situations like while driving
  • Feeling guilty or ashamed about your chronic alcohol use
  • Drinking alcohol in large amounts frequently

End-Stage Alcoholism

End-stage alcoholism is the final stage of alcoholism during which people begin experiencing health consequences. At this point, professional addiction treatment is extremely important.

People can remain functional during end-stage alcoholism, however, this will be short-lived. Alcohol use is usually an all-day affair, taking priority over all other responsibilities. Eventually, you will experience social, emotional, physical, and even financial consequences of your alcohol intake.

What are the Signs of End-Stage Alcoholism?

End-stage alcoholism will cause common symptoms of alcohol use disorder like dependency, tolerance, and withdrawal. However, you will also begin experiencing significant health consequences. For example, it is common to develop liver disease or heart failure during this stage of alcohol abuse.

Some of the health signs of end-stage alcoholism include:

  • Heart diseases
  • Anemia
  • Brain damage and dementia
  • Cirrhosis of the liver
  • Various cancers
  • Seizures
  • Depression
  • High blood pressure
  • Pancreatitis
  • Gout
  • Infectious diseases

End-stage alcoholism causes both physical and mental health concerns. You might become severely depressed, experience debilitating anxiety, or struggle to sleep. It is also common to deal with frequent mood swings and behavioral changes.

How is End-Stage Alcoholism Diagnosed?

It is important to note that “end-stage alcoholism” is not an official diagnosis. That said, your doctor will be able to diagnose how severe your alcoholism is based on how many symptoms of alcohol use disorder you are experiencing.

If you are experiencing six or more of the following symptoms, you have a severe alcohol use disorder (AUD):

  • You are consuming alcohol in larger amounts or for longer than intended
  • You have a persistent desire to cut back on or control alcohol use
  • You spend a great deal of time obtaining, using, and recovering from the effects of alcohol
  • You experience strong urges or cravings to misuse alcohol
  • Alcohol use is rendering you unable to complete responsibilities at home, school, or work
  • Alcohol abuse is causing social or interpersonal relationship issues
  • You are using alcohol in dangerous situations
  • You continue to drink alcohol despite facing physical or mental health effects
  • You need to increase the dose of alcohol to experience the desired effect
  • You experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms when you stop drinking

While some of the health complications associated with end-stage alcohol are not curable, there are things you can do to manage them. There is still hope for recovery if you are in the final stage of alcohol use disorder.

Can End-Stage Alcoholism Be Treated?

End-stage alcoholism requires immediate professional treatment, but you are not hopeless. Comprehensive alcohol rehab services and treatments can help you get your life back on track.

During treatment for end-stage alcoholism, you will undergo:

  • Medical detox to treat withdrawal symptoms
  • Medical treatment for health concerns like liver damage
  • Behavioral therapy in both individual and group settings
  • Psychoeducational support groups
  • Holistic treatments like yoga and meditation
  • Family therapy to repair broken relationships and increase support
  • Relapse prevention planning to teach you how to overcome triggers

It is important to note that you should always choose inpatient rehab when you are in this stage of alcoholism. Outpatient treatment will not be intensive enough to offer the type of support you need. Having 24/7 access to support and medical treatment is necessary when you have end-stage alcoholism.

Find Help for Alcohol Abuse and Addiction

If you are dependent on alcohol, PAX Memphis is here to help. We can connect you with an alcohol use disorder treatment center that suits your specific needs.

Contact us today to learn more about treatment for end-stage alcoholism.

Medically Reviewed: September 25, 2019

Dr Ashley

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Dr Ashley Murray obtained her MBBCh Cum Laude in 2016. She currently practices in the public domain in South Africa. She has an interest in medical writing and has a keen interest in evidence-based medicine.

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.