Late Stage Alcoholism Physical Signs

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Did you know that there are three stages of an alcohol use disorder? These three stages include early stage, middle stage, and late-stage of end-stage alcoholism.

Late-stage alcoholism, as its name implies, is the last stage of the said disorder. It is considered to be the stage where chronic mental and physical issues occur. Aside from that, it also leads to life consequences.

This is a severe disease that is not mostly talked about by people. Visiting an alcohol rehab clinic was never considered, leaving the condition untreated. 

However, too much consumption of alcohol can lead to serious health conditions that could result in death. In the United States, more than 80,000 people died every year because of alcohol use disorder.

That’s why alcohol is considered to be the third common cause of deaths of Americans.

When an alcoholic reaches the final stage of alcoholism, it means that alcohol already invaded their whole life.

In most cases, it usually poses adverse effects on the person's finances, overall health, and relationship with their family, friends, and loved ones.

Suppose an alcoholic person tries to quit alcohol drinking entirely while he is in late-stage alcoholism.

In that case, there is a high chance that they experience severe withdrawal symptoms, which usually include hallucinations and tremors.  

One of the most critical results of alcohol withdrawal is the DTs or the Delirium Tremens, which is highly fatal when left untreated.

Physical Signs of Late Stage Alcoholism

Considering the life-threatening dangers caused by end-stage alcoholism, it is essential to pay close attention to its physical signs.

However, compared to common opinions by many, treating alcohol addiction is still possible. One of the ways to treat it is to target and eliminate its harmful effects.

The following are the common physical signs possesses by a person who is in late-stage alcoholism.
  • Extreme weight loss
  • Lax hygiene
  • Their hands are very shaky. Even holding a glass of water is difficult for them.
  • Red eyes
  • They tend to lose interest in the things and activities they used to do before
  • They are not active anymore and start to lose their energy
  • Puffy face

Other Common Signs of Late Stage Alcoholism

There is no doubt that alcoholism is one of the most progressive and serious conditions that become worse as time goes on. In most cases, this condition starts from social drinking.

Over time, it becomes worse that a person needs to drink glasses of alcohol for them to feel normal. A person becomes alcohol dependent if he feels like a glass of alcohol could help him live.

Alcohol dependency refers to the person who starts to suffer from withdrawal symptoms when he cannot drink alcohol.

There is still worse than alcohol addiction, which is late-stage alcoholism. At this stage, a person will experience various physical ailments like the ones mentioned above, financial hardship, and shattered relationships.

Aside from that, their immune system becomes weaker and weaker. With that, he may experience some serious illnesses.

At the final stage of alcoholism, liver damage, heart problems, and mental issues also occur. If all these issues remain untreated, it can lead to life consequences.

Aside from the physical signs mentioned above, there are other most common signs of late-stage alcoholism. These are the following:

Risky Behaviour

Considering that alcohol misuse impacts how a person decides, an alcohol addict may usually make dangerous decisions.

Some examples of risky behaviour include binge-drinking or driving while under the influence of alcohol.

Damaging Relationships

This is another most common result of alcohol abuse. An alcoholic, who is at the late stage of alcoholism, usually neglect the importance of having good relationships with others.

They typically miss going to work or do not tell the truth to their loved ones. This could also result in the isolation of the alcohol abuser.

Severe Withdrawal

As mentioned, late-stage alcoholism means that the whole body of the person is already invaded by alcohol. In other words, he is alcohol-dependent.

A person who tries to stop their alcohol drinking habits completely may lead to chronic withdrawal symptoms, including seizures, anxiety, and even tremors.

They Start to Develop Alcohol-Related Illnesses

As time goes on, alcohol can cause cirrhosis or scarring to the liver tissues of a person.

Alcohol can also damage the brain of a person, which can result in trouble walking and blurred vision. 

Not only that, but late-stage alcoholism can also lead to the development of different types of cancer, strokes, and even heart attacks.


Long-term alcohol abuse can lead to chronic diseases. It also contributes to the malnutrition of a person so that alcohol replaces the essential nutrients a person can get from healthy foods.

Malnutrition is also a common sign of late-stage alcoholism because it interferes with how a person stores and absorbs the essential nutrients his body needs.

A malnourished person is also at a high risk of developing anaemia. This happens when the number of a person's RBC (Red blood cell) is lower than normal.

This also occurs when the cells do not contain enough haemoglobin protein.

Brain Disorder

Many studies concluded that alcohol misuse for many years could have a long-lasting impact on a person's brain health.

In some cases, most brain disorders are treatable by quitting alcohol drinking. However, keep in mind that too much alcohol consumption can affect someone's brain in different ways.

For example, the most chronic brain disorder caused by alcohol is Korsakoff's syndrome. This is a condition where a person cannot learn new details or remember events that recently happened.

Eye Problems

Usually, a person at his late-stage alcoholism experiences difficulties with paralysis and weakness of eye muscles or nystagmus (involuntary rapid eye movement, like eye twitching)

This happens because of a lack of vitamin B1 or thiamine. If it remained untreated, this could get worsen and lead to dementia.

Cardiovascular Health

If a person already reached end-stage alcoholism, he may probably be suffering from a wide variety of heart problems, which include the following:

  • High blood triglycerides, which is a condition that increases your susceptibility to heart attacks or developing heart-related illnesses.
  • A person is more prone to stroke and heart failure.
  • Alcoholic cardiomyopathy, which is a condition that damages the heart muscles.
  • Angina, which is a condition that resulted from blockage in the person’s coronary artery.

Chronic Pancreatitis

Alcohol can damage a person’s pancreas without showing symptoms for some years. But when chronic pancreatitis attacks, the symptoms start to show.

It is estimated that around 80 per cent of people who have chronic pancreatitis are because of alcohol misuse for years.

If a person is suffering from this condition, he may suffer from three different health problems at the same time, which include diabetes, weight loss, and even severe pain.

Diagnosis for a Person Who is at Late Stage Alcoholism

Even though professionals do not release official diagnoses of ending late-stage alcoholism, a medical expert may diagnose a person with alcohol use disorder.

They can determine the person’s stage depending on the years or months he used to drinking, the severity of alcohol he drinks, and his current health.

The following are eleven common symptoms seen in a person who has an alcohol use disorder.

If a person got more than six symptoms, he might be diagnosed with severe alcohol use disorder.

1. Alcohol tolerance which referred to at least one of the following meanings:

  • A person may set a mark or expected amount of alcohol to achieve their desired effect or intoxication.
  • He or she does not follow their set amount of alcohol to be taken to achieve intoxication.

2. Withdrawal which a person can acquire in either one of the following ways:

  • The person shows signs and symptoms of withdrawal syndrome caused by alcohol.
  • A person takes benzodiazepine or other related substances to alcohol, hoping to prevent or find relief from withdrawal symptoms.

3. A person may give up or lose interest in the recreational, occupational, or social activities they used to do because of alcohol addiction.

4. Continue to drink alcoholic beverages even though he already experienced recurrent or persistent interpersonal or social problems resulting from excessive alcohol use.

5. He continues to use alcohol even though he already has recurrent or persistent problems psychologically or physically. These psychological and physical effects are caused by improper alcohol intake.

6. Persistent drinking of alcohol in different situations, especially if it is precarious.

7. A person wants to quit or control himself in drinking alcohol but is not successful despite several attempts.

8. A person drinks too much alcohol than expected or uses it for a more extended period.

9. A person craves or dreams of drinking alcohol immediately.

10. A person spends most of his time doing activities that could help him drink alcohol, get some of it, or treat some of its adverse effects.

11. Persistent alcohol usage could lead to an inability to fulfil his roles at home, school, or even work.

Possible Treatment to End Late Stage Alcoholism

As mentioned, late-stage alcohol is awful, but this does not mean it is not curable anymore. There are still treatments that professionals may recommend to deal with alcohol use disorder together with the related issues resulting from heavy and chronic alcohol drinking.

The options of treating late-stage alcoholism of a person is to detoxify the alcohol content from a person's body supervised by a medical professional. This step helps the person eliminate toxins from the body and helps him deal with the withdrawal symptoms.

Enrolling an alcoholic in a rehabilitation program will always be a requirement, which includes the following:

Medicines: A medical professional may recommend an alcoholic to take medications, which include acamprosate (Campral), naltrexone (Depade or Revia), and disulfiram (Antabuse).

Behaviour Therapy: Behavioural therapy includes dialectical behaviour therapy, rational living therapy, rational behaviour therapy, rational emotive behaviour therapy, and cognitive therapy.

Support Groups: A person with alcohol use disorder is recommended to join support groups, including SOS (Secular Organizations for Sobriety, Women for Sobriety, Rational Recovery, SMART Recovery, and Alcoholics Anonymous. 

After a person decided to quit consuming alcohol, his body will start to reverse the damage it caused or avoid it from becoming worse over time.

Coping with Late Stage Disorder

When the time comes that an alcoholic reached his late-stage alcoholism, there is no doubt that alcohol usage has been a big part of his life and ultimately caused considerable damage to his overall health.

At this point, recovery is quite hard. But with the help of other people, medical professionals, and a person’s perseverance, the whole work will lead to a possible outcome.

Persons who have alcohol use disorder need 100 per cent support from their family and friends together with the help of mental health experts, addiction professional, and those who have the same condition.

There is nothing to be afraid of for being in a rehabilitation centre because there are loads of people who will help everyone.

If the consequences of late-stage alcoholism are concerning to you or a loved one, and anxiety is a factor in the struggle with alcohol, you may find our resource on How to Manage Anxiety by Reducing Alcohol Intake to be a valuable next step in understanding and addressing these interconnected issues.

Final Thoughts

Late-stage alcoholism is risky and can result in a person developing several health conditions.

Aside from chronic illnesses, this condition is fatal and can take your life all of a sudden. There is no denying that individuals suffering from late stages of alcoholism are complex, not just for him but also for his whole family.

Those individuals who used to drink alcohol improperly and want to go to a rehab centre or seek attention from a medical professional can consider the interventions mentioned above.

Families and loved ones of a person with late-stage alcoholism are also at risk of developing anxiety and depression. 

It is not easy for them to watch their loved ones suffer from this condition. With that, they also need support from professionals to overcome the effects.

To prevent the person’s alcoholism condition from getting worse, or treat its adverse impacts, enrolling them in rehabilitation programme is always essential.

Abbeycare has treatment centres located in Gloucester, Scotland, and other locations nationwide for those who want to start their journey towards overcoming alcoholism. 

Visit any of our clinics closest to you for appointment.

About the author

Laura Morris

Laura Morris is an experienced clinical practitioner and CQC Registered Manager with over twenty years experience, over ten of which have been as an Independent Nurse Prescriber.

She has held a number of senior leadership roles in the substance use and mental health sector in the NHS, the prison service and in leading social enterprises in the field.

Last Updated: November 21, 2023