Alcoholism or alcohol addiction is an insidious enemy. It is a crafty and cunning disease that almost seems to conspire to keep its host unhealthy and unhappy. Sadly in the worst-case scenarios, end-stage alcoholism is often fatal.
The human body is a remarkable instrument. Our bodies are capable of miraculous things. They can often heal from unimaginable things when we allow them to. However, long-term alcohol addiction can have devastating effects on the human body and its systems. Once alcohol addiction has taken hold, alcohol use disorder treatment is often the only way to halt the progression of the disease.
This article from North Jersey Recovery Center outlines the effects and signs of end-stage alcoholism on the body.
What Is End-Stage Alcoholism?
End-stage alcoholism, also known as late-stage alcoholism, is the most severe form of alcohol addiction. It’s characterized by a complete loss of control over drinking behaviors. People at this stage are physically dependent on alcohol — meaning they experience severe withdrawal symptoms like nausea, shaking, and anxiety if they stop drinking.
The line between social drinking or early-stage alcohol dependence and end-stage alcoholism is crossed when a person’s life becomes entirely consumed by alcohol. They often drink throughout the day, starting in the morning, to quell or prevent withdrawal symptoms. Someone in end-stage alcoholism will often be shaky in the morning, needing the first drink of the day soon after rising to “steady their nerves”.
Severe health complications, including liver disease, heart problems, brain damage, a weakened immune system, and a high risk of cancer generally accompany end or late-stage alcoholism. Mental health issues such as depression and anxiety are also common, as are social and financial problems.
But no matter how long a person has been addicted to alcohol or how serious their alcoholism is – there is always hope for recovery. As long as that person is alive and willing to try, they can recover. If they aren’t quite willing, then intervention may be an option worth considering.
How Does End-Stage Alcoholism Affect The Body?
Alcohol is essentially poisonous to the body. While most people can drink in moderation, many cannot. Once the phenomenon of alcoholism takes hold it can be a bit like a wildfire. What begins as just having a few drinks after work, over weeks, months or years can evolve into a string of benders and blackouts.
Of course, end-stage alcoholism doesn’t happen overnight. Every person with an alcohol use disorder is a little different. Some people may find themselves in the “end stage” of alcohol addiction after only a few years. For some others, it could take a decade for their drinking to reach the point where they’ve lost all control and are facing serious health consequences due to alcoholism.
Outside of the phenomenon of craving and the negative mental and social effects of late-stage alcoholism, there are substantial health problems that often follow heavy drinking over time. Alcohol isn’t food, it’s poison. It not only has no nutritional value — it is also damaging to the body’s tissues, systems, and processes.
Here are some of the major ways and signs of end-stage alcoholism affecting the body.
Liver Cirrhosis and Inflammation Leading to Liver Failure
Alcohol is processed in the liver, and excessive alcohol consumption can lead to liver inflammation (alcoholic hepatitis) and scarring (cirrhosis), which can progress to complete liver failure, a life-threatening condition.
Increased Risk of Pancreatitis
Pancreatitis, inflammation of the pancreas, can be triggered by heavy drinking. Chronic pancreatitis can lead to diabetes and pancreatic cancer.
Elevated Blood Pressure Leading to Heart Disease
Alcohol raises blood pressure, increasing the risk of heart disease, including heart failure and stroke.
Brain Shrinkage Leading to Cognitive Impairment or Brain Damage
Heavy drinking can lead to thiamine deficiency, causing brain damage (Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome), characterized by memory issues, motor function problems, and in severe cases, brain shrinkage.
Increased Risk of Certain Types of Cancer
Research shows that alcohol increases the risk of several types of cancer, including esophagus, mouth, throat, liver, and breast cancer.
Alcohol weakens the immune system, making the body more vulnerable to infections and slowing down recovery and healing.
Alcohol irritates the stomach lining, leading to ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, and gastritis, and can interfere with the absorption of nutrients, leading to malnutrition.
Heavy drinking often replaces meals leading to nutrient deficiencies. Alcohol also interferes with the absorption of vitamins and minerals, exacerbating malnutrition.
Poor Sleep and Increased Fatigue
Alcohol disrupts sleep patterns, leading to poor quality sleep and increased fatigue, which further deteriorates physical and mental health.
Other Signs of End-Stage Alcohol Addiction
Aside from the serious health consequences associated with late-stage alcohol addiction, people in this situation often neglect personal hygiene, and relationships, and may shirk responsibilities, like forgetting or neglecting to pay bills. Obtaining and drinking alcohol is the absolute priority. They will typically stash or hide alcohol around the house or workplace. This is to make certain a drink is never very far away, in case someone takes their alcohol away. But sometimes they simply forget where alcohol has been stowed away.
A person in the late-stage alcoholism phase may isolate themselves, lose interest in activities they once enjoyed, and their performance at work or school may suffer drastically. It’s virtually impossible to reach this level of alcohol addiction and keep it a secret from everyone. Even if people don’t notice you’re drunk due to a high tolerance, the person who drinks heavily for a long period of time will no longer look healthy. Absenteeism and other erratic behaviors combined with other red flags make it very difficult to keep their drinking habits under wraps.
Don’t Ignore the Signs of End-Stage Alcoholism for You or a Loved One
It’s never too late to get help for alcoholism. As long as you’re drawing breath, there is hope for recovery. If you or someone you love is ready to take their life back from the scourge of alcohol addiction — North Jersey Recovery Center is ready to help. Our world-class, dual-diagnosis alcohol treatment program in New Jersey has everything you need to conquer alcohol and take back your life.
Our programs are designed to fit into a busy schedule, where necessary with day and evening IOP therapy available. Everything you or the person you love needs to recover from alcoholism is right here. But it’s up to you to make the first move.
Pick up the phone and let’s give you a reason for hope today. Reach us at (877) 790-5873