End Stage Alcoholism: Signs, Symptoms, and Treatment

end stage alcoholism

An addiction to alcohol does not happen overnight. You may start out with a drink in the evening after a challenging day at the office or when socializing with friends. At a golf outing, you may have had more drinks than you had planned. As your body develops a tolerance for the substance, you drink more. At a certain point your alcoholism progresses from the early stages to end stage alcoholism, which presents with unique signs and symptoms.

A Progressive Disease

As with many other diseases, alcoholism is a progressive disease with a beginning, middle, and end stage. Early treatment is critical, as the most severe symptoms of the later stages can result in life-threatening health conditions. Alcohol use disorder contributes to approximately 88,000 deaths a year in the US, as the third leading preventable cause of death.

When you reach the end stage of alcoholism, your drinking has taken over your life. You undoubtedly have noticed, at this point, a significant negative impact on your work, your relationships, and even your finances, in addition to detrimental effects on your physical and mental health.

End stage alcoholism can cause symptoms that include:

  • Fatigue
  • Cirrhosis
  • Malnutrition
  • Jaundice from liver failure
  • Anemia
  • Chronic pancreatitis
  • Heart failure
  • Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (also called alcohol dementia)

Mental health disorders related to end stage alcoholism can include thoughts of suicide.

Late Stages

By the time you reach the later stages, you have at the very least, a dependence on alcohol. After you have passed the stage where your drinking has become a problem for you and your professional life, you reach the stage where you have such an attachment to drinking that it has taken over your regular routine. You see how it affects you, your work, and people around you, but you no longer have control over it.

You have developed such a tolerance to alcohol that you feel you have to drink more and more often to get the same effect. Your increased drinking is also damaging your physical and mental health in more severe ways.

End Stage Alcoholism

The final stage is addiction. You are no longer drinking for pleasure now, but because you feel a physical and psychological need to drink. You crave alcohol and suffer withdrawal symptoms until you can get your next drink. That drink can be anywhere, anytime, as long as you get it. You may also be addicted to other drugs and have mental health issues at this point. You may also be exhibiting compulsive behaviors in your end stage alcoholism.


If you try to quit drinking on your own in end stage alcoholism, you could suffer devastating consequences. You need supervision to manage withdrawal. Even between drinks, you may experience withdrawal symptoms that can be severe, including:

  • Trouble sleeping
  • Nausea that is unrelated to a hangover
  • Severe irritability
  • A racing heart
  • Sweating
  • Body tremors
  • Hallucinations

Jellinek’s Curve

In the mid-20th century, E.M. Jellinek was influential in the study of alcoholism. He developed the concept of the progressive phases of alcoholism, which became known as the Jellinek curve. He defined and described the disease’s progression, including its physical and mental characteristics.

Jellinek’s curve has been revised and refined over the years but he determined that the disease begins with problem drinking, progresses through physical problems, such as blackouts and a neglect of basic self-care, and mental problems, such as guilt and a change of moral compass. The disease reaches the end stage with obsessive drinking.


The curve turns upward after the last stage into the rehabilitation stage. At this point, treatment is necessary to overcome the addiction and to manage the withdrawal symptoms. An addiction treatment professional will work with the individual to discover the underlying causes of the drinking addiction and to determine the best way to help, which will include detox as well as individual and group therapy, support group participation, and sober living options.

Outpatient Addiction Treatment for Professionals in Philadelphia

At Providence Treatment, we understand that end stage alcoholism can be scary and it can be overwhelming for you to admit that you need help for your addiction to alcohol. When you are ready to get outpatient addiction treatment in Philadelphia, we are ready to help you. Our expertise is in serving high-profile clients and licensed professionals like you.

Don’t let addiction to alcohol or drugs take over your life. You can overcome addiction at Providence Treatment. If you need help getting clean, then contact us at 484.469.9592, and you can begin your recovery as soon as possible.

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