Like many other diseases, alcohol use disorder is progressive. An individual with an addiction to alcohol will move through the stages of the disease as they continue to drink and drink larger quantities. The last stage is end stage alcoholism, which can severely shorten the life expectancy of an alcoholic.
End Stage Alcoholism
The final stage of an alcohol use disorder is end stage alcoholism, which results from years of alcohol abuse. The individual in end stage alcoholism will experience serious mental and physical conditions, including possible life-threatening health conditions.
Left untreated, alcohol use disorder can be fatal. Alcohol contributes to approximately 88,000 deaths annually in the US, making it the third leading preventable cause of death. When an individual reaches this stage, drinking has taken over their lives and has impacted their daily functioning, including work, finances, and relationships.
Alcohol-Related Liver Disease
Health conditions caused by end stage alcoholism can include fatigue, malnutrition, jaundice, heart failure, anemia, alcohol dementia, and cirrhosis. When the liver can no longer metabolize the alcohol quickly enough, it will send it back into the bloodstream. When this happens repeatedly, it causes the liver to harden. As a result, cirrhosis or scarring of the liver can occur.
Cirrhosis is the last stage of alcohol-related liver disease. Symptoms can include digestive issues, jaundice, and brain and nervous system problems such as fainting and numbness in the extremities. Over 40,000 people in the US die from alcohol-related cirrhosis every year.
Liver Damage Prognosis
Alcohol-related liver disease, or cirrhosis, is caused when a person drinks too much alcohol for a long time. The prognosis for someone diagnosed with cirrhosis depends on whether and how much fibrosis and inflammation are present. If the individual stops drinking and there is no fibrosis present, the fatty liver and inflammation can be reversed.
However, once the cirrhosis and its complications develop, which can include fluid accumulation in the abdomen and bleeding in the digestive tract, the prognosis is much worse. In fact, only about half of the individuals experiencing these complications will live for another five years after their diagnosis. Individuals who stop drinking may live slightly longer than those who don’t stop.
Life Expectancy of an Alcoholic
A number of research studies have been conducted recently to determine how many years alcohol typically takes off a person’s life expectancy. In one study, which examined people with and without alcohol use disorder from 1987 to 2006, it was discovered that life expectancy was 24 to 28 years shorter in alcoholics. The study also found that people with alcohol use disorder had higher mortality rates from all causes of death, all medical conditions and diseases, and suicide.
The conclusion of the study was that people who have to be hospitalized because of the negative health effects of their alcoholism typically have an average life expectancy of 47 to 53 years for men and 50 to 58 years for women.
In a separate research study, it was found that those individuals who reported drinking excessive amounts had shorter life expectancies at age 40 of approximately 4 to 5 years. Approximately 20% of the alcohol-related survival difference was attributed to death from cardiovascular disease. Further exploration and analysis of the study results revealed that people who drank beer or spirits, as well as binge drinkers, had the highest risk for mortality from all causes.
Quitting Drinking During End Stage Alcoholism
Even though there are many health consequences an individual can face during the last stages of alcoholism, quitting drinking can alleviate many of the symptoms. However, a person should never try to quit drinking on their own during end stage alcoholism.
Withdrawal symptoms could be serious, including tremors and hallucinations. Delirium tremens, or DTs, can be fatal. It is critically important to seek out a professional alcohol addiction treatment program to safely detox and withdraw from alcohol use.
California Addiction Treatment Center
If you find that you are suffering from the effects of long-term alcohol use and are ready to get and stay sober, please contact Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat for help. We are uniquely equipped to help you recover from an addiction to alcohol or drugs. At HVRC, we offer a full continuum of care, from acute medical detoxification to sober living programs. We are licensed as a Chemical Dependency Rehabilitation Hospital (CDRH), enabling us to provide more services than most addiction treatment centers. During COVID-19, we remain open and continue to follow all of the CDC guidelines to keep you safe and healthy.