What is End-Stage Alcoholism?

Whether you are an alcoholic looking for information or love someone who is struggling with alcoholism, learning about the end-stage alcoholism can help provide you with some insight. Addiction is a progressive disease, which means that over time, it will continue to get worse.

The amount of alcohol consumed and the frequency of drinking will increase as well as tolerance to alcohol. As this disease progresses, it increases the risk for health concerns resulting from continued heavy alcohol use. Mental health concerns, liver damage and gastritis are common occurrences.

Just as a refresher, early-stage alcoholism is usually when a person begins to develop a tolerance to alcohol and are drinking to cope with stressors. Please know that drinking to cope with stress can happen at any stage of alcoholism, and even with individuals who do not have a drinking problem.

The second stage of alcoholism can include hiding drinking behaviors and tends to bring in more physical consequences, such as drinking to avoid withdrawal symptoms. Seeing someone you love struggle with alcoholism can be challenging.

Denial is a common experience for individuals in the first and for some, the second, stage of alcoholism. To learn more about the first two stages of alcoholism, please follow the link.

Knowledge is power, so having a solid understanding of the various stages of alcoholism can be beneficial for an alcoholic and those who love and care for them. The final stage of alcoholism tends to be the most difficult of the three stages. At this point in addiction, an alcoholics loved ones have been impacted by the disease.

It is common for individuals in the final stage of alcoholism have physical and mental health changes that resulted from their drinking.

When an alcoholic is in the final stages of drinking, continuing to do so will kill them. A healthy and sober life is possible at any stage of alcoholism.

We do know that some of the damage that alcohol has on the body is irreversible, even with sobriety and other life style changes.

What the Final Stage Is

Learning more about this last phase can often help people cope better with the many issues that they will be faced with.

The final stage of alcoholism can also be referred to the third stage of alcoholism. At this point of the disease, the alcoholic has no control over their drinking and are consumed by the disease. This stage can often be a direct result of many years of heavy drinking. It is common for this phase to begin with the presence of serious withdrawal symptoms.

Withdrawal symptoms occur when an alcoholic has begun to detox from alcohol, usually in attempt to live a sober life. During this time, individuals who are in the final phase tend to have no motivation and are willing to do anything just to get more alcohol into their system. Once they begin keeping secrets about their drinking habits it will only become progressively worse over time.

The danger here is that if an alcoholic runs out of money, they may resume binge drinking which could lead to death on its own or death by other causes when combined with addiction-related health concerns like brain damage or liver failure.

For most, the final stage of alcoholism means that the alcoholic is drinking throughout the day, with little or no thought to the potential consequences. Many times, this leads to problems at work and at home with family.

It is important to recognize that any control that the alcoholic may have had over their drinking behaviors in the beginning stages of their addiction, are long gone by the time that they reach the final stage of addiction.

They must drink in order to function. This loss of choice is one of the most devastating aspects of this phase of the disease and is often the one aspect that family and friends do not understand or appreciate.

What To Look For

End stage alcoholism presents itself with certain symptoms. Alcoholism is individualistic, meaning that not all alcoholics experience the same symptoms, or even in the same order. There will likely be similarities though.

  • The person may begin to experience episodes of psychosis. The alcoholic may become more aggressive, or by contrast, more passive in situations.
  • They begin to experience a sense of fear for no apparent reason. Many alcoholics begin to realize that they have no control over their drinking behaviors. For some, this may motivate them to become sober, for others, it may make sobriety appear scary and impossible.
  • The alcoholism final stage is also represented by long periods of intoxication where the person may be inebriated for days at a time.
  • During this phase, they may begin to exhibit the signs of the DT's, and they may have hallucinations in both sight and hearing.

Health Issues of Alcoholism Final Stage

It is often during end stage alcoholism that drinkers learn about their health problems. Problems that alcoholics can experience can affect many areas of their body. There are no two alcoholics who have the same health concerns, however there are similarities among drinkers.

Cirrhosis and other liver damage are one of the most common health issues among drinkers. Hepatitis and heart failure can also occur. The person may notice that their blood does not clot as it used to.

This can lead heavy bleeding if they are injured. Bone weakness may occur which leads to breakage. Brain and pancreas issues may also become health factors that must be addressed by medical personnel. End stage alcoholism usually includes malnutrition as well.

Towards the end, individuals may experience pain in their muscles as a result of liver disease. Alcoholic cardiomyopathy is also common among those who are entering end-stage alcoholism. It is more commonly known as alcoholic heart failure. The skin may become pale and dry during this phase, but it can also become oily or bloated looking in some instances. Individuals that have reached this phase of alcohol abuse will often have blood pressure problems as well as major issues with cholesterol.

Two Cautions

As stated above, if a person in end stage alcoholism continues to drink, they will die from it. Death can be the result of an accident, health complications or suicide.

Alcoholics who are treated by professionals have a better chance of survival compared to those who do not.

The second caution to understand is that any individual in the end stage of alcoholism should never stop drinking without the supervision of a medical provider.

Going cold turkey now can lead to dangerous health problems such as seizures and possibly lead to death.

How can You Help Someone in The End-Stage Alcoholism?

There are different ways to approach end-stage alcoholism. The important thing is that there is at least one person in the person's life who understands what they are going through and can support them during this period.

Help should be sought from family, friends, counselors, or medical professionals. All of these resources have a proven track record of saving lives. While it is very difficult for families and friends to watch this disease take their loved ones, they need to understand that the final stage alcoholics are not in control of themselves anymore. They literally need help from other people if they want to survive.

With few exceptions, their only hope for recovery is getting professional treatment before it's too late.


Alcoholism is a disease that has the potential to affect every aspect of the individual who suffers from it. While the physical symptoms may not be immediately noticeable, this does not diminish their impact on someone's life. Many people do not take alcoholism seriously until they see how it affects others around them.

As mentioned earlier, alcoholic’s in the final stage of alcoholism have a better chance for recovery when they receive professional help. Interventions from loved ones can help lead to this when done properly. Anyone who recognizes these end-stage alcoholism signs should urge those affected to seek help before things become worse than they already are!

Lead Writer/Reviewer : Kayla Loibl

Licensed Medical Health Professional 


I am a Mental Health Counselor who is licensed in both New York (LMHC) and North Carolina (LCMHC). I have been working in the Mental Health field since 2015. I have worked in a residential setting, an outpatient program and an inpatient addictions program. I began working in Long Island, NY and then in Guelph, Ontario after moving to Canada. Read More

Alcoholism Help Homepage | What is Alcoholism | Signs of Alcoholism | Alcoholism Tests | Alcohol Abuse Effects | Living with an Addict | Alcoholism Recovery | The AA Way| Alcoholism Cure| Alcoholism Medication | My Story | Alcoholism Guide Blog | Contact Us | Disclaimer | Privacy Policy

New! Comments

Have your say about what you just read! Leave me a comment in the box below.