Many people don’t view alcohol as an addictive drug. Yet for those who are predisposed to alcohol addiction, their use of alcohol can often spiral out of control and take over every aspect of their lives. There are millions of people among us who are alcoholics or will become alcoholics. For the alcoholic, nothing else is important, as the mind functions on a continuous quest to procure and imbibe alcohol. End stage alcoholism can be as awful to experience as an opiate withdrawal.
Someone with end stage alcoholism will experience changes to their physiology, and also experience substantial neurological problems. A person who has end stage alcoholism is likely to know the road they are on is leading to death. They have usually attended a support group of some sort and have tried to quit, only to return to drinking and all its miseries. They are well aware and often accepting of the situation they have ended up in due to their drinking.
However, they may still be resentful, regretful, jealous or miserable about their situation. The only thing the loved one can do if this happens is to not take it personally and to provide unconditional support and love to the alcoholic to ease their suffering and passing.
What Is End Stage Alcoholism?
End stage alcoholism occurs when the alcohol has become necessary to the alcoholic for their existence. When many people start drinking, they ignore the fact that alcohol is both a stimulant and depressant to the central nervous system, as characterized by the liveliness of a party and the subsequent hangover. Until they reach end stage, they often drink in an attempt to forget how bad they felt after their previous drinking binge and to recapture the high.
At some point, they become dependent on it and become full-blown alcoholics. There are other stages of alcoholism that precede end stage alcoholism.
When a person is in their early stages of alcoholism, their drinking may not seem unusual to others. Although they may appear to have a higher tolerance than their friends, they are still decidedly more social when they are drinking. As their drinking advances to later stages, this is no longer the case. The early alcoholic will be a very different person than the end stage alcoholic. While drinking, they will:
When a person is in the stage where they have fully committed to their alcoholism, their physiology begins to change, and neurological results of their alcoholism begin to appear. They might be shaky and have tremors if they have not had a drink all day. There are many subtle changes that occur in this stage
End Stage Alcoholism
End stage alcoholism occurs when the alcoholic begins to manifest both the physical and mental effects of long-term heavy drinking. An alcoholic who is in the end stage of their disease has often thought about quitting quite a lot but has not been able to after one or more attempts. They may have other anxiety or depression related issues that are compounded by their alcohol intake. Other characteristics of this stage are:
Jaundice is one of the obvious symptoms of end stage alcoholism although it can also be caused by other health conditions. The skin develops a waxy yellowish color and sometimes jaundice appears in the whites of the eyes. As the liver function decreases and it cannot deal with all the toxins that the liver has produced while processing large quantities of alcohol, jaundice sets in. This happens when the excess bilirubin that the liver cannot metabolize is pushed out of the bloodstream and into the intestinal tract, causing the skin discoloration. This condition can be improved with treatment of the liver and discontinuation of drinking.
Delirium Tremens (DTs)
Delirium Tremens take place when someone is trying to quit drinking and they have acute withdrawals. They can occur anywhere from two to ten days after the last drink. This is why many people detox only under medical supervision, as seizures related to DTs can occur within the first two days after the last drink. Symptoms of DTs can include:
This syndrome is caused by a vitamin B-1 deficiency and causes encephalopathy, or toxicity of the brain. It may become increasingly difficult to understand the alcoholic as the toxicity in their brain increases and behavior may become unpredictable. Hallucinations of all kinds can take place in an alcoholic affected by this syndrome. There are physical signs of this syndrome as well, such as eyelid drooping, double vision and unusual movement of the eyes. It also affects the muscular system, with the alcoholic often experiencing decreased muscle coordination and leg tremors.
As the drinker travels along their route to end stage alcoholism, they find that they require larger quantities of alcohol to maintain the same feeling of drunkenness. This is often why you see alcoholics move on to bigger quantities of alcohol the longer they have been drinking. After a while, though, something different happens. As liver function devolves and it cannot process alcohol in the way it once did, less and less alcohol is needed to get the alcoholic drunk. This is a rare occurrence in heavy drinkers, but it happens.
How to Help a Loved One in End Stage Alcoholism
Since many alcoholics at this point have forsaken food for liquor, it is imperative they eat as much as they can to avoid malnutrition. Additionally, it is important that they eat well since it has usually been a long time since they have received the nutrients they need. This is because the gastrointestinal tract is no longer able to absorb the nutrients in the same way in an alcoholic’s system. Make sure they are eating healthy, well-balanced meals with vegetables and proteins. It is also important to make sure that the alcoholic stays hydrated at all times.
Many alcoholics die alone in their isolation. Hopelessness has long since taken over, and their continued consumption of alcohol is only leading them closer to the grave. They know this. Some end stage alcoholics can be very difficult to listen to as their negativity is overwhelming. Keep them company as much as possible, but remember to take care of yourself, too.
Personal Attacks/Resentments of the End Stage Alcoholic
You might often find that the alcoholic rages out against you and the world as a whole. Try not to take the resentments they are projecting onto you personally and do not engage in their ‘pity parties’. If you lose patience with the alcoholic and find yourself wanting to lash out at them, give yourself a break from the situation and return to it once you have calmed down. Their perspective is not going to change, so you need to get used to that part of the end stage alcoholism.
Each person has their own journey as they travel through life. Unfortunately, for those whose trips included larger quantities of alcohol over time, there are eventually consequences to their actions. These ramifications are both physically and psychologically manifested and can often lead to a death that could have been avoided.
Many people in end stage alcoholism have attempted treatment and returned to alcohol during times of stress. They have often given up on the idea of recovery and view themselves as failures. You need to remember that the statistics are not in their favor once the drinker has reached the end stage, so be gentle with them as the disease progresses. Keep in mind it is essential not to blame yourself for the actions of the alcoholic. They have decided the path that they are on, and it is not required that you shoulder their burden. Take solace in knowing that at least you are able to be of some comfort to them during this difficult time.