The 4 phases of alcoholism (and how they affect the person)

Alcohol is currently the most consumed drug in the world. And yes, alcohol is a drug, although some people don’t want to admit it. It is the most dangerous drug in the world, if we take into account the large number of deaths it causes each year, both for diseases and for accidents, acts of violence and other social problems. More than all other drugs combined.

Alcohol is very addictive. Some studies estimate that about 20% of people who drink alcohol develop some form of addiction throughout their lives. It’s one in five.

Another reason why alcohol is the most widely abused drug is that it is so deeply embedded in the culture of many societies. Many risky behaviors or clear signs of alcoholism go unnoticed by most people because they are so normalized that they do not attract attention in many contexts. In many environments, risk-taking is even promoted to feel socially accepted.

In this article, I will briefly explain what alcoholism really is and what are the main phases a person goes through when they develop an alcohol addiction.

    What is alcoholism really?

    Alcoholism or alcohol dependence is the psychological problem for which a person loses control over drinking. That is, the person can’t really choose whether or not they want to drink, or they have a hard time resisting their urges to drink.

    Many alcoholics I have worked with have told me how “when they start drinking, they don’t know how to stop”they lose control and end up doing things they regret the next day, in addition to endangering their lives and those of others.

    Alcoholism isn’t just about getting very drunk every time you drink. The person suffering from alcohol addiction desire to drink very oftenit is common for them to find “excuses” to drink any day of the week or even any time of the day.

      What are the 4 phases of alcoholism?

      These are the main steps, summarized.

      1. Pre-alcoholic phase

      The person consumes alcohol to relieve unpleasant sensations and daily stress. It is recreational consumption, leisureand it is generally very socially normalized, so red flags are generally not seen from the outside.

      The person gradually increased their consumption, both in quantity and frequency. Alcohol tolerance develops, so the person needs to drink more and more to feel the same effects as at the beginning.

      2. Prodromal phase

      The person begins to practice more risky behaviors, looking for that drunken feeling it arrives faster and stays longer. It is common to drink very strong drinks (higher alcohol percentage), to order series of shots, to drink faster, etc.

      It is in this phase that some people start drinking on the sly or lying about how much they are drinking. They are aware that they drink a lot and feel a certain shame, and fear that other people will suggest that they drink less.

      3. Critical phase

      Alcohol consumption becomes more extreme and begins to directly affect several areas of a person’s life. He suffers from loss of control, memory lapses, his way of drinking begins to affect his personal relationships, even his professional life. Alcohol consumption becomes the center of his life, all other activities revolve around alcohol consumption.

      4. Chronic phase

      In this phase, alcohol tolerance has reached such a point that the person begins to experience symptoms of alcohol withdrawal syndrome, causing them to drink almost continuously to try to avoid these symptoms.

      The life of the person is constantly in danger of overdoseand feels unable to cope with many activities of daily living, in many cases requiring continuous supervision.

      If you suspect you have a problem with alcohol, don’t wait until you reach the last step (the chronic phase) to ask for help. This model is useful to help people detect their risky behaviors at an early stage, in order to prevent future more serious problems.

      I have worked with hundreds of people who realized that sometimes they “drank too much”, and they made the decision to stop drinking alcohol and get sober, because they realized that alcohol did absolutely nothing for them, and that it also prevented them from fully enjoying social gatherings and their relationships in general.

        How to overcome alcoholism

        Alcoholism is one of the most dangerous problems that exist, but it can be overcome if you rely on help. There are many communities and support groups, as well as centers and institutions to help the person achieve abstinence. The best method to overcome alcoholism is individual psychotherapy, because it allows the person:

        • Delve into the origins of your addiction
        • Learn to manage everyday stress without alcohol, along with other strategies
        • Build or strengthen new pillars in life, which bring satisfaction
        • Prepare a relapse prevention plan
        • Getting up after relapses, learning from them, and maintaining abstinence

        These are things that can only be worked well in individual therapy, because the person has personalized attention. Support groups (like Alcoholics Anonymous) are helpful for some people, but not for everyone.

        Even though all the people who come have good intentions, they are not addiction professionals, and what works for one person may not work for another, because each case is a world. They are usually very helpful for the person to feel social support and a space to express their emotions, but they cannot replace the personalized attention of a professional.

        I call Luis Miguel Real, and I am a psychologist specializing in addictions. If you’re having trouble quitting drinking and need help, contact me and we’ll start working on your case as soon as possible.

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