The effects of alcohol use intensify as the use and abuse progesses. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence and the American Society of Addiction Medicine recently presented a revised definition of alcoholism: "Alcoholism is a primary, chronic disease with genetic, psychosocial and environmental factors influencing its development and manifestations. The disease is often progressive and fatal. It is characterized by impaired control over drinking, preoccupation with the drug alcohol, use of alcohol despite adverse consequences, and distortions in thinking, most notably denial...
Experts illustrate the progression of the disease by outlining four basic stages of alcohol use as follows:
I. STAGE ONE - Although there may be no outward behavioral changes caused by the casual use of alcohol, such use can not be considered "safe" for young people. Young people are particularly susceptible to the effects of alcohol. Alcohol is considered to be a gateway drug since use and abuse of alcohol often leads young people to use other mind-altering drugs.
II. STAGE TWO - This stage involves more frequent use of alcohol as the person actively seeks the euphoric effects of a mind-altering drug. At this point, the user usually establishes a reliable source, and may add mid-week use of alcohol to previous habits of weekend use at parties.
III. STAGE THREE -In this stage, there is intense preoccupation with the desire to experience euphoric effects. Daily drinking, depression, and thoughts of suicide are common. Family troubles increase. Problems with the law may also become evident.
IV. STAGE FOUR -Those who have reached this stage need increasing levels just to feel OK. Physical signs such as damage to the heart, liver, and brain, malnutrition,and lower resistance to pneumonia, and blackouts are common. Family life is a disaster.
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