End-Stage Alcoholism

The destructive stage of chronic alcohol abuse.

End-Stage Alcoholism | Table of Contents

What is End-Stage Alcoholism?

End-stage alcoholism is the concluding stage that occurs as a result of years of alcohol abuse. By the time an individual reaches this destructive stage, he/she would have developed a number of physical and psychological conditions in addition to alcohol addiction. At this stage of alcoholism, individuals may suffer from a wide range of irreversible health complications, strained or damaged relationships with friends and family, as well as a loss of financial stability.

The Stages of Alcoholism 

Alcohol abuse manifests in many stages, such as:

Social drinking

This stage is defined as consuming a few drinks with friends or colleagues at social gatherings. Social drinking is a relatively less-dangerous drinking pattern, which may not lead to alcohol abuse.

Binge drinking

It has been estimated that 17 billion alcoholic drinks are consumed each year in the US. This estimation is greatly contributed to binge drinking as one in six Americans binge drink. Generally, binge drinking can lead to alcohol addiction over time.

Heavy drinking

Individuals who drink regularly or excessively in social settings are considered heavy drinkers. These individuals are likely to experience alcohol tolerance.

Alcohol dependency

Individuals who develop alcohol dependence may find it hard to quit their consumption as they may experience withdrawal symptoms. During this stage, individuals may form physical or psychological dependence or both.

Alcohol addiction/alcoholism

When an individual forms an addiction to alcohol, he/she may begin to display various behaviors that impact their health and personal relationships.

End-stage alcoholism

he final stage of alcoholism at which the individual may experience serious health and mental complications that may have fatal consequences.


What is the life expectancy of an alcoholic?

The average life expectancy for men with AUD is 47 to 53 years of age, while it is 50 to 58 years of age for women. Patients with AUD generally die between 24 to 28 years earlier than the general population.

How long can you live with end stage cirrhosis?

The average life expectancy of a patient with end-stage cirrhosis is two years.

Can stage four cirrhosis be reversed?

The damage caused by stage four cirrhosis cannot be reversed unless a patient undergoes a liver transplant.

End-Stage Alcoholism and Health Complications

End-stage alcoholism may bring about many health complications, of which the first stage may consist of liver damage. The accumulation of fats may eventually result in liver scarring (cirrhosis) or liver disease that may have fatal consequences. Since the liver is responsible for maintaining a healthy functioning body, any damage to it may result in other adverse health complications.

Health complications that may arise during end-stage alcoholism may include:

  • Dementia
  • Cancer
  • Brain damage
  • Hepatitis
  • Heart problems
  • Stroke

Alcoholic cardiomyopathy due to end-stage alcoholism requires immediate medical intervention.

Some of the warning signs of alcoholic cardiomyopathy are:

  • Swollen feet, legs, or ankles
  • Fatigue
  • Labored breathing
  • Dizziness
  • Lack of appetite
  • Feeling weak
  • Irregular pulse/heart rate


Do alcoholics lose their appetite?

Heavy drinking can suppress appetite as they produce calories.

How do you know if cirrhosis is getting worse?

Some of the signs of worsening cirrhosis include jaundice, vomiting of blood, and itchy skin.

How long can an alcoholic live with cirrhosis?

Half of AUD patients with cirrhosis survive for two years, and only 35% survive for five years.

Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome and End-Stage Alcoholism

Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome (WKS), also known as alcohol dementia and wet brain, is a condition that occurs most frequently in end-stage alcoholism. This syndrome occurs as a result of vitamin B-1 deficiency, which manifests as traits similar to dementia.

The symptoms of Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome may include:

  • Leg tremors
  • Stumbling gait
  • Vision changes
  • Problems in maintaining balance
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty in learning new things
  • Drooping lids
  • Hallucinations
  • Double vision

Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome is a combination of two separate syndromes, namely Wernicke’s Encephalopathy and Korsakoff’s psychosis. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) estimates that around 90 percent of alcoholics experiencing Wernicke’s Encephalopathy go onto develop Korsakoff’s psychosis over time.

Early Signs of Liver Disease From Alcoholism 

There are many visible health conditions that occur during end-stage alcoholism, such as jaundice from liver failure, as well as subtle signs such as itchy skin, fluid retention, bleeding, and fatigue that may signify another underlying health complication.

End-Stage Alcoholism Recovery

Alcoholism at any stage can be overcome through the right treatment program and support. Even if the addiction has caused serious and irreversible damage to the patient’s health, quitting alcohol can significantly help a patient during their final stage of life or even extend their life a little longer. Recovery from alcoholism can also give the patient the opportunity to mend broken relationships and take back control of their life. However, the length of the individual’s life depends on a range of factors such as the extent of the damage, the quality of medical care, and the willingness of the individual to fight the addiction.

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