There are, and have been, many theories about alcoholism. The most prevailing theory, and now most commonly accepted, is called the Disease Model.
Its basic tenets are that alcoholism is a disease with recognizable symptoms, causes, and methods of treatment. In addition, there are several stages of the disease which are often described as early, middle, late, treatment and relapse.
While it is not essential to fully define these stages, it is useful to understand them in terms of how the disease presents itself.
This series of articles describes the signs and symptoms of each stage as well as exploring treatment options.
- Early or Adaptive Stage
- Middle Stage
- Late Stage
- Treating Alcoholism
- Relapse to drinking
3 – The Late Stage of Alcoholism
The late, or deteriorative stage, is best identified as the point at which the damage to the body from the toxic effects of alcohol is evident, and the alcoholic is suffering from a host of ailments.
An alcoholic in the final stages may be destitute, extremely ill, mentally confused, and drinking almost constantly. The alcoholic in this stage is suffering from many physical and psychological problems due to the damage to vital organs. His or her immunity to infections is lowered, and the employee’s mental condition is very unstable.
Some of the very serious medical conditions the alcoholic faces at this point include heart failure, fatty liver, hepatitis, cirrhosis of the liver, malnutrition, pancreatitis, respiratory infections, and brain damage, some of which is reversible.
Why does an alcoholic continue to drink despite the known facts about the disease and the obvious adverse consequences of continued drinking? The answer to this question is quite simple. In the early stage, the alcoholic does not consider himself or herself sick because his or her tolerance is increasing. In the middle stage, the alcoholic is unknowingly physically dependent on alcohol. He or she simply finds that continuing to use alcohol will prevent the problems of withdrawal. By the time an alcoholic is in the late stage, he or she is often irrational, deluded, and unable to understand what has happened.
In addition to the effects of these changes, the alcoholic is faced with one of the most powerful facets of addiction: denial. An alcoholic will deny that he or she has a problem. This denial is a very strong force. If an alcoholic did not deny the existence of a problem, he or she would most likely seek help when faced with the overwhelming problems caused by drinking. While denial is not a diagnosable physical symptom or psychiatric disorder, it is an accurate description of the state of the alcoholic’s behavior and thinking and is very real.