End-Stage Alcoholism

Table of Contents


End-stage alcoholism is also known as late-stage alcoholism. This is the final stage of a progressive and chronic disease associated with an array of serious physical and mental health conditions. End stage alcoholism has a high fatality rate if untreated.

Today’s guide will outline how to take action and engage with alcohol addiction treatment before it’s too late.

We want to help

Let’s setup a call and figure out the best treatment options for you or your loved one. Our detox specialists will get back to you immediately.

What is End-Stage Alcoholism?

According to NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse), alcohol use disorder is a chronic and relapsing disease. 

A progressive disease, alcoholism has three stages terminating in end-stage alcoholism and potentially life-threatening complications. 

Long-term alcohol abuse is implicated in an estimated 95,000 deaths each year in the United States, according to CDC data. This ranks alcohol as the third preventable cause of death in the U.S. 

When end-stage alcoholism sets in, drinking becomes central to the person’s life. Alcohol abuse is likely to provoke serious problems in all areas of life, including: 

  • Interpersonal relationships
  • Finances
  • Professional life
  • Physical health
  • Mental health

It is inadvisable for anyone to attempt abruptly discontinue use of alcohol during end-stage alcoholism. Several withdrawal symptoms can manifest, such as tremors, hallucinations, and delirium. In the event of DTs (delirium tremens) developing, potentially lethal seizure can occur.

A supervised medical detox can mitigate the risks and complications characteristic of severe alcohol withdrawal.

an image of someone dealing with end-stage alcoholism

End-Stage Alcoholism Symptoms

These are among the main adverse outcomes of end-stage alcoholism: 

  • Chronic pancreatitis
  • Malnutrition
  • Cardiovascular complications
  • Cancer
  • Brain disorders

Chronic pancreatitis

Chronic alcohol abuse can damage the pancreas without any symptoms presenting for years. This can culminate an acute attack of pancreatitis. An estimated 70% of cases of pancreatitis are linked to alcohol abuse. Symptoms typically include: 

  • Pain
  • Diabetes
  • Weight loss 


The chronic abuse of alcohol can lead to malnutrition. Many alcoholics make poor dietary choices. Alcohol abuse also disrupts the storage, absorption, and metabolism of key nutrients. Malnutrition can trigger anemia. 

Cardiovascular complications

End-stage alcoholism is linked to. the following heart-related conditions: 

  • Increased chance of stroke or heart failure
  • Angina
  • Alcoholic cardiomyopathy (damaged heart muscle)
  • Damage to the heart muscle (alcoholic cardiomyopathy)
  • High blood pressure
  • High blood triglycerides


Chronic alcohol abuse to the extent of end-stage alcoholism increases the risk of the following types of cancer: 

  • Liver
  • Throat
  • Mouth
  • Colon
  • Breast
  • Esophagus

Brain disorders

Research indicates that the sustained and chronic abuse of alcohol can cause lasting brain damage. 

The most serious adverse outcome is Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, a memory disorder stemming from a deficiency of vitamin B1 (thiamine).

Internal Bleeding

End-stage alcoholism and internal bleeding are associated with the development of these conditions: 

  • Alcoholic gastritis
  • Cirrhosis of the liver
  • Alcoholic ketoacidosis

Alcoholic gastritis

Alcohol abuse can damage and corrode the stomach lining. This can prompt the development of alcoholic gastritis. If this occurs, internal blood will seep from the stomach lining continuously.

Cirrhosis of the liver

The toxic effects of alcohol damage the liver, eventually killing liver cells

Cirrhosis of the liver is a condition in which fibrous scar tissue forms throughout the liver, leading to a build-up of fluid in the abdomen. When this excess fluid enters the veins, bleeding occurs in the esophagus. 

Alcoholic Ketoacidosis

The National Library of Medicine reports that alcoholic ketoacidosis can occur if ketone acids accumulate in the blood. 

Alcohol adversely affects the GI tract and prevents essential nutrients from penetrating the bloodstream. Resultantly, the body breaks down fatty tissues for sustenance using ketone acids. High levels of these acids can cause internal bleeding. 

The most common signs of internal bleeding related to end-stage alcoholism are: 

  • Ulcers
  • Coughing up blood
  • Blood in the stools
  • Coma
  • Stroke-like symptoms

Liver Disease and Cirrhosis

End stage alcoholic liver disease comes about when the liver is no longer able to process alcohol quickly enough, instead returning it to the bloodstream repeatedly. This causes the liver to harden with scarring of the tissue called cirrhosis. This is the last stage of liver disease associated with alcoholism. 

While the early stages of liver disease may not cause any symptoms to present, the following signs are often evident after long-term alcohol abuse: 

  • Memory problems
  • Fainting
  • Numbness in extremities
  • Digestive problems
  • Dry mouth
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Internal bleeding
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin)
  • Red and spidery veins

End-Stage Alcoholism Death

End-stage alcoholism can be an incredibly dangerous diagnosis, with its mortality rates alarmingly high. 

The major cause for concern during end-stage alcoholism is liver disease, which is made worse by cirrhosis, which often occurs at the same time. Cirrhosis happens as a result of the sustained heavy drinking that comes before someone becomes an end-stage alcoholic. 

Besides liver failure, alcohol-related health issues can spawn complications such as hepatitis and brain damage issues, which can further worsen late-stage alcoholism symptoms.

Obviously, quitting alcohol consumption during this stage can be life-saving. However, the cessation journey comes with many risks if not done under the supervision of a medical detox staff at a detox facility or hospital. Severe and often deadly withdrawal symptoms can occur during the detox phase, especially for a late-stage alcoholic.

For individuals with late-stage alcoholism symptoms, withdrawal-induced seizures are a significant concern, afflicting about one in twenty long-term alcohol abusers. However, there is treatment available that can significantly increase the chances of a safe detox. Withdrawal-induced seizures can be subdued by clinical professionals in the first 96 hours of detox, which increases the chances that seizures will NOT occur by a staggering 90%.

The decision to quit drinking and seek professional treatment during end-stage alcoholic liver disease or end-stage alcoholism holds the potential to dramatically prolong one’s life, and offers a chance to break free from the clutches of this destructive addiction.

an image of California Detox's addiction treatment center where people can get help for end-stage alcoholism

Get Help Today at California Detox

If you have alcohol use disorder, the condition will become progressively worse if untreated. Engage with treatment programs for alcohol addiction at the following levels of intensity: 

  • Inpatient rehab (residential rehab)
  • PHP (partial hospitalization program)
  • IOP (intensive outpatient program)
  • OP (outpatient program)
  • Virtual IOP (remote therapy)
  • Dual diagnosis program (treatment for addiction and co-occurring mental health condition)

Before you begin one of the above treatment programs, you must first detox from alcohol. Choosing our supervised medical detox allows you to purge the toxins from your system in a controlled clinical setting. Medications can streamline the severity of cravings and withdrawal symptoms. 

After a week or so of withdrawal, you will be ready to segue into inpatient or outpatient treatment. MAT (medication-assisted treatment) can be effective beyond detox and into ongoing treatment. MAT will be delivered alongside the following interventions at California Detox: 

  • Group counseling
  • Individual counseling
  • Psychotherapy (CBT and DBT)
  • Holistic therapies
  • Family therapy

For help from detox to discharge and into ongoing sobriety, call California Detox today at 949.567.8790.


End-stage alcoholism can trigger a variety of noticeable health conditions, including jaundice triggered by liver failure. Additionally, you may notice more subtle signs like persistent fatigue, fluid retention, itchy skin, and bleeding. All of these signs indicate the possibility of end of life approaching for the person with chronic alcohol use disorder.
Research shows that among those hospitalized for alcoholism, average life expectancy is from 47 to 53 years for men, and from 50 to 58 years for women. On average, alcoholics die between 24 and 28 years earlier than those in the general population.


Request a Call