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Elvin Morton Jellinek, was a biostatistician, a Yale University physiologist, and one of the founders of the field of addiction science. He viewed alcoholism as a chronic, relapsing condition that needed to be treated by health professionals. In 1946, he published a paper, based on a small study, on the progressive nature of alcoholism where he proposed the idea that problem drinking follows a common trajectory through various stages of decline. Jellinek’s studies and publications eventually led to the formation of the Jellinek Curve. His model, now widely accepted, detailed his theoretical stages of alcohol addiction, each characterized by different changes in mental, physical, and social functioning. It illustrates the symptoms seen during a person’s progression through the four stages of alcohol addiction, as outlined below: 

Stage 1: Pre-Alcoholic

The first stage of alcoholism is a general experimentation with alcohol. There is little evidence of problem drinking, which makes it difficult to identify. This stage is when alcohol tolerance develops as an individual begins to drink more to experience the same effects. 

Stage 2: Early (Prodromal) Stage

This is considered the transitional stage where the development of a pattern of alcohol misuse begins. Levels of consumption escalate, drinking becomes more regular, and troubling physical signs and symptoms emerge. During this stage an individual may become abnormally preoccupied with drinking and recurrent blackouts may accompany drinking episodes.

Stage 3: Middle (Crucial) Stage

This stage is when an individual begins to drink frequently and consistently, and a person’s drinking problem is likely to become more obvious to themselves and to those around them. They may struggle with worsening relationships with friends and family or experience changes to their behavior that affects them negatively. They often experience health impacts as physical decline continues. At this stage, the individual is usually completely physically dependent on alcohol. This can cause people to crave alcohol throughout the day and spend much of their time thinking about drinking or acquiring alcohol.

Stage 4: Late (Chronic) Stage

By this point, both physical dependence and addiction are present. People in this stage of alcoholism are likely to meet the diagnostic criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) for alcohol use disorder. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) alcohol addiction, also known as alcoholism or alcohol use disorder (AUD), is characterized by “an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse social, occupational, or health consequences.” When the individual does not consume alcohol regularly, they may experience withdrawal symptoms and intense cravings.

For Information and Support 

If you are concerned for yourself or a loved one regarding substance abuse and/ or addiction, we recommend reaching out for help as soon as possible. If left untreated, substance abuse can result in long lasting and potentially life-threatening consequences. Keep in mind: you are not alone! There is an entire network of professionals that are available to help and support you and your loved one throughout the recovery process. The earlier you seek support, the sooner your loved one can return to a happy, healthy, and fulfilling life.

Please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions regarding our specific program at Haven House Addiction Treatment and/ or general substance abuse and/ or addiction treatment related information. Our highly trained staff is readily available to discuss how we might best be able to help you and your loved one. We can be reached by phone at 424-258-6792. You are also welcomed to contact anytime us via email at admissions@hhtxc.com.

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