Stage 3 — Problem Drinking
If you continue drinking heavily with no restrictions surrounding your alcohol consumption, there is a good chance you will escalate into problem drinking. Those who engage in problem drinking begin experiencing significant personal problems as a direct result of their alcohol use. The impacts of their habit become hard to ignore.
The problems you personally experience will vary, but they might include a general decline in your mood, issues in interpersonal relationships, and problems at work or at school. You might even experience legal or financial issues directly linked to drinking; maybe you start driving while under the influence, or you have a difficult time maintaining a paying job because you consistently show up hangover — or intoxicated. This is a good time to seek professional help.
Stage 4 — Physical Alcohol Dependence
The terms “addiction” and “dependence” are often used interchangeably, but there is an important distinction between the two. When you become physically dependent on alcohol, it means your body has a difficult time functioning when alcohol is not present in your system. When you become addicted to alcohol, alcohol use becomes compulsive — you can no longer control when and how much you drink.
When you become dependent on alcohol you have developed a physical tolerance, meaning you need to drink more in order to feel drunk. You also likely experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop drinking. These symptoms include uncontrollable shaking, nausea and vomiting, a racing heart, high blood pressure, anxiety, and restlessness. At this point in the process some degree of treatment has become necessary.
Stage 5 — End Stage Alcoholism
At this point you are physically and psychologically dependent on alcohol and you will not be able to quit without professional help. You can’t go very long without drinking; when you do, you start to experience nasty withdrawal symptoms that disrupt your ability to function. Drinking is no longer fun — it is compulsive and uncontrollable.