According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), 79,000 deaths per year are alcohol-related. People who chronically abuse alcohol are at risk for serious health problems, can suffer both joblessness and homelessness and are more susceptible to losing support of family and friends. Late-stage alcoholics are rarely capable of functioning normally due to lack of social ability and rapidly failing health.
The three stages of alcoholism
The disease of alcoholism generally follows a three-stage pattern, the first being a period of adaptability to larger amounts of liquor consumption with limited social or physical effects. Someone may appear to be a social drinker who can "hold his own," and is able to drink more than other people, but he is still capable of holding down a job and other responsibilities. Second-stage alcoholics begin to show signs of social deterioration. Trouble at home or at work due to alcohol begin to be more commonplace. The problem drinker is not always able to hide the amount she is drinking at this point and there will be periods, such as blackouts, where the alcoholic is losing the ability to control her drinking. The third stage shows serious effects from alcoholism. Health problems, loss of employment, divorce, problems with the law, accidents and homelessness are all consequences of late-stage alcoholism.
Because drinking affects every system in the body, there are multiple symptoms that someone with chronic alcoholism presents. Shakiness or trembling of the hands, incoherent or heavily slurred speech, cognitive difficulty, mobility problems, dementia and anti-social behavior, such as inflicting violence on himself or others, are some of the more common signs of late-stage alcoholism.
Diseases associated with late-stage alcohol abuse
Alcohol affects the nervous system and all major organs of the body. After a long, sustained period of drinking, the alcoholic may face diseases such as hepatitis, cirrhosis of the liver, pancreatitis, arrhythmia, cerebral atrophy, seizures and risk of stroke. End-stage alcoholics are also seriously at risk for cancer of the esophagus, liver and pancreas. Mental health is affected thorough affective disorder, depression and anxiety or they may suffer long-term brain damage commonly known as "wet brain."
Chronic alcoholics suddenly undergoing withdrawal will likely experience delirium tremens (the D.T.s), a combination of severe trembling, panic attacks, fever and hypertension. A more well-known consequence of D.T.s is a period of hallucination where patients see "tiny animals," or feel that insects or small vermin are crawling under and on top of their skin. Due to the physical stress of sudden withdrawal, people experiencing delirium tremens could die if not treated by a physician.
Treatment for Late-Stage Alcoholics
Many who have reached this stage truly feel they cannot live without alcohol and will persist in drinking until they die from cirrhosis, heart attack or by having an accident while drunk. However, alcoholics can be treated, even in the latter stage of their disease, but it will only be successful if the patient truly wants to make the change. A late-stage alcoholic must be treated under a doctor's care and have his health regularly monitored. Inpatient treatment centers would be the best solution. They typically offer a 30- to 90-day stay that includes individual and group therapy, exercise, diet and nutrition programs, family counseling and peer recovery meetings such as Alcoholics Anonymous. Even individuals who have reached the end-stage of their drinking, can become sober and go on to lead productive lives.