acquiesce - January 26th, 2021

The Different Stages of Alcoholism: When to Seek Help

How Does Alcohol Addiction Start?

The starting point for alcohol addiction or ‘Alcoholism’ can differ for each individual and there is no set path. It often begins in one’s younger years (late teens) as casual or social drinking. Alternatively, it may begin in later life when they drink to relieve stress and wind down after a hard day, or when they drink as a way to cope with trauma or numb pain; physical or emotional. Whatever the reasons for the initial alcohol consumption, people don’t begin drinking and wake up the next day with an addiction- alcoholism is progressive.

Frequent Drinking or Occasional Binge Drinking

During the initial stage, the individual is likely to engage in occasional alcohol abuse or binge drinking. This is when more than the recommended number of units (8 for men, 6 for women) are consumed in one session, which is roughly 2 hours. Whilst they may not be drinking on a regular basis to start with, the dangerous amount they drink can cause the individual to become dependent and they may start to find that these sessions become more frequent over time.

Early on, the negative effects of a developing dependence are more subtle but they become more severe as it progresses. Alcohol addiction can be psychological, physical or both and can have consequences in many areas of an individual’s life. Some common symptoms of early dependence and binge drinking are: Temporary blackouts or memory loss, mood swings, anxiety, depression, dehydration, severe hangovers that include headaches, nausea, vomiting.

Frequent or Excessive Drinking

In the next stages of alcoholism, the individual tends to start drinking more alcohol more frequently. Instead of drinking occasionally at the end of the day or only at parties, the individual may find themselves drinking every weekend, or smaller amounts multiple times a week. Individuals often excuse their frequent or excessive drinking with reasons such as alleviating stress, boredom or an excuse to go out with friends. The more the individual drinks, the more at risk they become of developing alcoholism.

Problem Drinking

The following stage is described as problem drinking, where the individual starts to suffer more serious consequences as a result of their drinking. During this time, they may find themselves irritable, anxious or depressed more often, and start to prioritise drinking above other things such as relationships, work or school responsibilities and the law.

Alcohol Dependence

Once the individual starts prioritising alcohol over important parts of their lives, it is clear that they are starting to become dependent. This means that they struggle to function without having a drink because they have become tolerant of the substance, meaning they need more to feel the initial buzz they once felt. Alcohol dependence and addiction are two different things that are often used interchangeably. Alcohol dependency is a term used to describe when an individual has a physical dependence on alcohol, meaning they rely on alcohol to function on a day-to-day basis and is the most serious form of drinking problem according to Drinkaware.


Alcohol addiction, or ‘alcoholism’ is a term used to describe when an individual is unable to stop consuming alcohol despite the negative physical and/or social consequences they may face as a result. Addiction is more of a mental reliance than a physical once.

Signs of an Alcohol Addiction

Signs and symptoms of alcohol addiction can vary depending on the individual and can be both physical and/or psychological. Common signs include:

  • Withdrawal symptoms including sweating, nausea, and shaking that stops when more alcohol is consumed
  • Worrying about where the next drink is coming from, planning social, family and work events around alcohol, isolated drinking
  • A compulsive need to drink and finding it hard to stop once started
  • Drinking alcohol despite the known negative consequences
  • Waking up and drinking – or feeling the need to have a drink in the morning

When Should I Seek Help?

Due to the way in which alcoholism progressively develops, the sooner you reach out for help, the better and easier it is to start recovery. If you recognise any of these stages from your own behaviour or feelings, please don’t hesitate to seek help, even if you think you aren’t as bad as those with more severe addictions and dependencies.

How to Get Help

If you think you or someone you know might be struggling with alcohol abuse, alcohol dependence or an alcohol addiction, treatment at Acquiesce begins with a free confidential consultation with a Recovery Practitioner in order to establish the individual needs and suitability for safe treatment with the service.

Once the correct treatment pathway has been decided and agreed, Acquiesce provides a safe and therapeutic environment which is conducive to the recovery from alcohol addiction.

Following a detoxification, a combination programme of evidence based therapies are then delivered by a team of experienced professionals. The therapies address the physical, psychological, social and spiritual aspects of alcohol addiction and utilises holistic therapies, social activities and regular gym and exercise. To discuss your recovery, or the recovery of a loved one, please get in touch for a free, anonymous consultation.

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