Could you recognize the stages of alcoholism in yourself, your friends, or your family members? If you are concerned that someone you know has an alcohol problem, then just knowing the four alcoholism stages could enable you to help that person quit drinking, and may even help you save their life.

Before we list the specific stages of alcoholism, it is important to discuss the difference between alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence.
§ Alcohol abuse: there are many signs and symptoms of alcoholism in the abuser, but the person does not feel compelled (or driven) to drink.
§ Alcohol dependence: a person whose alcoholism has progressed to the dependence stage has an inability to control his or her drinking, and has developed a tolerance to alcohol.

The four alcoholism stages

STAGE ONE: Drinking as an escape
In the first stage of alcoholism, the Prodromal Stage, the person drinks in order to escape from reality. Alcohol helps the person “run away” from pressures, fears, and worries. A person in the beginning stages of alcoholism has an increased tolerance to alcohol, and may not appear drunk. The very early alcoholism stages are characterized by gulping drinks, sneaking drinks and a refusal to discuss drinking.

STAGE TWO: Drinking becomes a need
In second stage alcoholism, known as Early Stage, a person will be driven to drink by an inner desire that is irresistible. A second stage alcoholic may have periods of abstinence, but the drinking will always resume. This person may also be in denial about his or her problem through rationalization. The strong desire to drink begins to make the person dependent on alcohol. The second stage alcoholic may suffer blackouts and may display aggressive behavior.

STAGE THREE: Drinking without control
In the first two alcoholism stages, despite frequent drinking, the person has retained some measure of control; however, in the Middle Stage, the person no longer has power over the need for alcohol. This is one of the most easily recognized stages of alcoholism by friends or family, because at this point, the person begins to give up activities with other people, as well as hobbies that used to be enjoyable. The person’s job may suffer, and he or she may also begin to be in trouble with the law. Despite these consequences, the drinking continues.

STAGE FOUR: Drinking due to total dependence
In Late Stage alcoholism, the person exhibits a complete dependence on alcohol. The day often begins with a drink, and the rest of the day is characterized by tremors, binges, and frequent drink gulping. The physical signs of chronic alcoholism begin to manifest themselves: brain deterioration, poor judgment, loss of memory, and impaired concentration. A person in stage four alcoholism has a very high risk for liver disease, heart disease, and cancer of the mouth and/or esophagus.

Knowing the signs of the four alcoholism stages empowers you to help those around you who may have an alcohol problem. Whether it is yourself or someone you know, if any of these stages of alcoholism is present, seek help from a doctor or health care professional who will evaluate the problem and prescribe a suitable treatment program.

For more information about alcoholism and treatment, please visit

Author's Bio: 

This article was written by Scott Mogul, the editor of For more information about alcoholism and treatment, please visit Learn About Alcoholism.