There are three stages of alcoholism: early, chronic, and final stage. A person that has reached the final stage is consumed by drinking. Quitting alcohol at that point is incredibly difficult and the person has probably been in and out of rehab many times. If the person seeks professional help, they might not reverse the health damage their organs have suffered, but it is still possible to achieve sobriety.
What is end-stage alcoholism?
This is the most severe stage of alcohol use disorder where the person drinks to stay alive. The withdrawal symptoms at this stage are unbearable so the person would rather drown himself in alcohol than feel that pain. Alcohol withdrawal is life-threatening and if going through a withdrawal, the person needs professional supervision.
After many years of drinking, you might notice at least few of the symptoms that are common at this stage, including:
- Loss of control. The person can’t hold down a job and must consume alcohol in order to function. Drinking is the only thing that matters to him and he no longer tries to quit.
- Feelings of destruction. Alcoholics in end-stage feel anxious and fearful of the unknown. Some of them start to anticipate their own death which is no surprise in this stage.
- Low tolerance. They are no longer able to drink excessive amounts of alcohol and get intoxicated very easily.
- Delirium Tremens (DTs). This is an unpleasant symptom that appears when the alcoholic tries to stop drinking and characterizes with violent shaking and sweating. As a severe condition that causes an altered mental status and autonomic hyperactivity that can lead to cardiovascular collapse, delirium tremens has a high mortality rate. So, it needs to be recognized early.
- Guilt and resentment. Alcoholics feel guilt because of their actions and the way they have hurt other people around them. They are ashamed of the person they are and feel remorse because of the missed opportunities. At this point, the drinker feels like the entire world is against him and is angry and bitter towards everybody.
- Drinking is number one. The person doesn’t show any interest in social or family activities and is obsessed with drinking. Every biological need comes second and he doesn’t even bother to keep alive the relationship in his life. Frequent contact with law enforcement is common usually because of drinking and driving or drinking connected issues.
- Alcohol blackouts. This is a common symptom for alcoholics that characterizes with loss of memory that progresses with days sometimes weeks of them not remembering anything.
Common Health Issues:
- Cirrhosis of the liver. This is the most common health issue found in an end-stage alcoholic. Cirrhosis is a medical condition where the liver can’t function properly because of the development of scar tissue. As a result, the liver can’t get proper blood flow which affects its ability to clear toxins out of the blood, control infections, process medications and nutrients and much more. This condition is treatable in the early stages. The alcoholic needs to make changes in diet and stop drinking alcohol. Many times, the person has been through this and soon after he gets better returns to his drinking habits. Liver or kidney failure is also common.
- Hepatitis. The most common sign of alcoholic hepatitis is jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes). The person is all swollen in the abdomen because of fluid accumulation (ascites).
- Heart failure
- Bone weakness
- Pancreatitis. An alcoholic often suffers from an inflammation of the pancreas because of his alcohol use.
- Brain issues.
- Depression that may lead to suicide.
- Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (wet brain). Chronic alcohol use leads to vitamin B-1 deficiency which disrupts the brain, nervous system, heart, gastrointestinal system, and muscles. As a result, the person can’t coordinate muscle movement, is often confused, and has holes and bleeding in the brain. These symptoms are part of the first stage called the Wernicke’s symptoms that if left untreated will progress to the second stage, Korsakoff symptoms. They include disturbance in memory and psychosis. The brain damage that happens as the syndrome progresses is often irreversible.
Can you help an End-Stage Alcoholic?
The chances of getting a chronic alcoholic to stop drinking are pretty low. Being at this stage means the person has probably been to rehab dozens of times and will reject further offers to treatment. If the person doesn’t want to be helped there is not much you can do for him. This is a shame because alcoholism is treatable at any stage. Dealing with this situation on your own is never a good idea, so don’t hesitate to seek help at any time.