Alcohol addiction never occurs overnight. Rather, it starts with decisions that an individual chooses to make because of poor peer groups, mental or emotional struggles or even genetics. Because it is estimated that around 17 million American adults struggle with alcohol addiction or overuse, it is vital for individuals to understand when their healthy alcohol use has turned into something more sinister. Most professionals see five stages on the road to alcohol addiction.
- The first stage consists of occasional binge drinking, such as what one might expect at a frat party. The individual may drink five or more alcoholic beverages in two hours or less. Even though this behavior may occur rarely, it is still quite dangerous.
- The second stage changes to increased drinking. Not only does the individual consume alcohol regularly, he or she also drinks more at one time than is healthy. Additionally, the person may feel a strong emotional attachment to the pleasure of drinking.
- In the third stage, the drinker notices some problems in his or her life that can be traced back to the drinking. For example, a previously healthy relationship may disintegrate or social times with friends may be decreased. In addition, the person may begin to feel depressed or develop insomnia.
- At the fourth stage, the person becomes dependent on alcohol. This is different from being addicted. These people must drink alcohol at certain times to maintain their good feelings both physically and emotionally. They also find that they must drink more and more to attain the feeling of being drunk. When these individuals go without alcohol for a time, they may experience adverse side effects, such as nausea, sweating, and tremors.
- The final stage is known as addiction or alcoholism. People in this stage do not find pleasure from the alcohol. Instead, they must keep drinking in order to maintain the status quo both physically and emotionally. They crave alcohol and may find that they turn to other drugs at the same time.