Home page Psychology blog Bad Habits Substance Abuse Chronic alcohol abuse: is there a chance to get rid of this pathological habit?

Chronic alcohol abuse: is there a chance to get rid of this pathological habit?

26.08.2019 Author: Psychologist Pavel Khoroshutin

“I have been living with a drinking husband for 10 years. In the first years of marriage, I was not bothered by the fact that my spouse often drank beer because I thought he relaxed, and it removed the stress after work. But then everything started to change. He drank stronger alcohol, there were endless drinking bouts with friends.

Now, years later, I can’t remember the last time I saw my husband completely sober. He quit his job a couple of years ago, or rather he was fired for constant drinking-sessions. Now I support the whole family and we have 2 children.

I tried to talk to him, I appealed to his conscience. I heard a lot of promises in the moments of his remorse. He said he would stop drinking, to start treatment and to find a job. But this was nothing but empty talk. When he gets a little sober in the morning, he does not go to the narcologist, but he goes to the nearest store instead. At first, I believed him and I was looking for doctors. Now there is no hope anymore. He was even in the hospital once. He stayed there for only 3 days, and then he ran away. Certainly, he does not care about our children, all our quarrels happen before their eyes.

My husband always lies to get money to buy drink. Once he even said that his mother was ill, and that he urgently needed to go to visit her in another city. I gave him the money and he left. He returned a week later. His face was broken and he reeked of alcohol. He said that he was attacked. But then the whole truth was revealed. He had been drinking with a friend for the whole week, and he never went to his mother. This is the last straw. I can’t live with him anymore.”

— Veronika, 35 y.o.

The symptoms and consequences of alcohol abuse can make us think seriously how can we live on? At the chronic stages, all manifestations of the pathological habit are aggravated. A person becomes physically and psychologically dependent on alcohol and cannot feel up to quitting drinking it. Is this a verdict? Here we will help you to understand how to determine chronic alcohol abuse and to consider the treatment methods and the difficulties that addicts face during treatment.


Chronic alcohol abuse in men and women: what are the differences?


Chronic alcohol abuse is a disease caused by prolonged use of alcoholic beverages. There are a combination of factors that lead to physical and mental disorders.

Chronic alcohol abuse is preceded by 2 stages of the pathological habit. If a person does not say “stop” to addiction at some point, the only one goal and the main value in life is to get another bottle.

Chronic alcohol abuse occurs with varying degrees of progrediency [1]:

  • Severe chronic alcohol abuse is formed within 2-3 years. It is characterized by deep personality changes, social maladaptation, and an increasing lack of remissions (sober periods).
  • The average period of development is within 8-10 years. At the same time, remissions can be prolonged and personality changes are moderate. This period is often accompanied by a decrease in social and labor adaptation.
  • The low-grade disorder is formed very slowly and the 3rd stage does not occur. It is characterized by long-term remissions, minor personality changes and a social adaptation that may not be disturbed.

Chronic alcohol abuse in men

“I started drinking at school when I was 16. I had a lot of friends and we had parties.

I didn’t see a problem with what I was drinking. Alcohol consumption had never bothered me. I graduated from university, found a good job and got married. But the parties didn’t go away, only now I was drinking not with school friends, but with colleagues. We celebrated everything possible – the birth of children, promotion at work, every holiday. There was always a reason.

Problems appeared later when drinking became more frequent. I did not stop drinking at all. I was so tormented by hangovers that I “suppressed” them with more bottles of alcohol. At the age of 35, I turned into a miserable alcoholic. I changed a lot, I became angry, aggressive and irritable. I hit my wife in one of our regular quarrels. I don’t know what came over me, I was just enraged that she was always getting at me. She left and took our son. But my drinking buddies did not leave, so my apartment was like a brothel. By that time, I no longer had a job, a car, or a stable income.

I decided to change my life when I was hospitalized with alcoholic poisoning. The doctors barely saved me. The rehabilitation was long and painful. Now I have been clean and sober for 3 years. But there are still times when I want to drink.”

— Georgy, 40 y.o.

Before the onset of chronic alcohol abuse, a man can drink alcohol for a long time, but everything also depends on his physical condition, the amount of alcohol consumed and other factors. As a rule, a man does not particularly try to hide his addiction and quickly gets close to other antisocial personalities so as not to drink alone.

Men’s alcohol abuse is, first of all, connected with numerous rituals. Meetings with friends, buying a car or a promotion at work, someone’s birthday, going to the sauna or football are amongst the reasons to drink. Alcohol abuse begins to develop from this. As the man does not want to seem weak, he does not refuse to attend any fun party. In general, it is believed that men are more likely to drink precisely because of social pressure.

As the addiction develops, they quickly switch to stronger drinks. Men in a state of alcoholic intoxication, are more likely than women to become aggressive. Hence occur cases of violence against family members. When he gets sober, he can repent. But everything is repeated, once the addict gets drunk again.

In addition, men overtake women in terms of external risks associated with excessive alcohol consumption. According to American scientists, they are 2 times more likely to be in the hospital with ethyl alcohol poisoning, 4 times more likely to be involved into car accidents and 5 times more likely to drown. [3]

According to doctors, men return to their former lives much faster than women after the start of treatment even if they have similar “experiences” of drinking.

Chronic alcohol abuse in women

“I drank my first glass of vodka when I was 14. I immediately felt bad. But instead of being put off, I decided: “I must learn to drink”. It all started: discos and noisy company, where bad alcohol flowed like water. I was always insecure, and alcohol helped me to be bolder. I liked this effect.

I barely graduated from school. My parents helped me to enter the university, but I transferred to the correspondence department during the first half of the year. I was not interested in studying, I just wanted to party. I met a guy when I was 20. We got married quickly. I can’t say that I’ve loved him very much, I just wanted to move away from my parents as soon as possible. I hid my alcohol abuse from my husband for a long time. I always had a bottle of wine or vodka in my purse. And then I didn’t care. I went into long binge drinking spells and cheated on my spouse. I started having memory blackouts, my health worsened, and I left work. I was 27, but I looked about 40. I finally broke down when my husband left me. I drank without stopping. By that time, my “drinking experience” was 14 years. Yes, there were moments when I tried to quit, but they all ended in the same way – I broke down and started drinking again.

During the next period of binge drinking, my parents took me to a drug treatment clinic. Then I suffered a broken leg because I fell when I was drunk. There was a long rehabilitation ahead. I remember that time with horror.

Now I haven’t been drinking for 7 years. Life is gradually returning to normal. I have a new husband and a new job. However, my health was ruined by drunkenness, so I don’t know if it’s possible to have children.”

— Alina, 35 y.o.

Doctors agree that women’s alcohol abuse proceeds faster and is accompanied by more pronounced symptoms.

It is believed that women are more likely to start drinking because of emotional problems such as difficulties at work and relationship issues with a partner. Psychological injuries, especially sexual violence, increase the risk of problematic alcohol use. A woman does not succumb to the persuasions of friends to drink if she does not want to. On the other hand, doctors have described the “inebriating phenomenon”, when a woman begins to drink under the pressure of her partner. That is, if the husband drinks, the wife will be likely to start drinking if she has reduced willpower and heredity considerations.

A specific sign of women’s chronic alcohol abuse is that they can often hide addiction until the last moment. This is due to the stereotypes that exist in society: a woman should not drink, she is the keeper of the hearth, mother, wife, etc. Therefore, further treatment is complicated as the patient often ends up in the hospital when she is already severely addicted.

At the stage of chronic alcohol abuse, women are more likely than men to be diagnosed with mental disorders such as depression and anxiety. These are directly related to the addiction and likely to reinforce each other. [2]

Causes of chronic alcohol abuse


There are quite a few people who do not drink at all, and it is unlikely that everyone who drinks a little on holidays will become an alcoholic. Years of continuous consumption of alcoholic beverages are needed for the pathology to become chronic. If the addict does not say “stop”, getting rid of the addiction can be long and painful.

We will help you to give up alcohol

Make for consultation WATCH VIDEO

The high rate of alcohol abuse which develops to the critical stage directly depends on the following factors:

  1. The formed physical dependence on alcoholic drinks — an acute withdrawal syndrome in chronic alcohol abuse has to be “drowned out” with the next portion of alcohol.
  2. A low level of stress tolerance. This is when the addict does not know other ways to deal with personal problems except by drinking.
  3. A low level of self-regulation. This is when the addict is unable to say “no” to alcohol consumption.
  4. The social environment — friends repeatedly encourage drinking.
  5. Relationships with loved ones — the alcoholic drinks even more when relatives give him up. [1]
Doctors assign great importance to heredity in the development of chronic alcohol abuse. The risk that a child from a family of alcoholics will also drink in the future is as high as 20 %. [5/1]

Signs of chronic alcohol abuse


Doctors define chronic alcohol abuse as a complex lesion of the body. This is not only a deteriorated health condition, but also the psycho-emotional state.

Chronic alcohol abuse is manifested by the following signs:

  1. Psychological and physical craving for alcohol.
  2. The abstinence syndrome. This is when an acute discomfort occurs with a sudden interruption of the use of ethanol, and the condition does not normalize without alcohol or medications.
  3. Developed tolerance to ethyl alcohol — an addict may not get drunk for a long time.
  4. A gait with markedly impaired coordination, even when sober.
  5. Constant tremor of the hands.
  6. Signs of polyneuropathy in the arms and legs (burning pains, decreased sensitivity).
  7. Diseases of the liver, gastrointestinal tract and cardiovascular system that have developed into the chronic stage. [1]

How the disease proceeds: stages of chronic alcohol abuse

loss of a loved one

Chronic alcohol abuse does not proceed rapidly. The disease goes through 3 stages. [5/1] Let us consider them in more detail.

The course of the diseaseSigns
1st stageThe onset of the 1st stage of chronic alcohol abuse is preceded by many years of daily abuse of alcoholic beverages. Control over the amount of alcohol consumed is gradually lost, as the addict begins to develop endurance for alcoholic beverages. This is fraught with alcohol poisoning because a person can drink a lot without getting drunk.Abrupt withdrawal of alcohol after a multi-day binge causes acute abstinence syndrome. The addict is already in captivity of the addiction, he cannot cope with the severe symptoms of a hangover without another portion of alcohol.Chronic alcohol abuse can be accompanied by irritability and aggression even at the initial stage.Also, cases of temporary amnesia are common — the addict cannot remember what he did the day before when he was drunk. A person gradually loses interest in life. There is a violation of the norms of morality and ethics, everyone around suffers from this.The decomposition products of ethyl alcohol no longer completely leave the body, because a person always drinks. With the harmful effects of ethanol, chronic diseases of internal organs begin to develop rapidly especially if the addict consumes the cheapest drinks
2nd stageAlcohol tolerance reaches its maximum value — up to 2 litres of strong alcoholic beverages daily.A persistent abstinence syndrome is formed. Now a heavy hangover comes even after a small amount of alcohol drunk the day before. The inability to satisfy a craving for alcohol leads to mood swings. The physical manifestations of abstinence syndrome include trembling in the hands and feet, dizziness, increased blood pressure and body temperature.Human behaviour often becomes difficult to predict, which can lead to numerous problems such as domestic violence, fights on the street, crimes. The addict becomes anxious, suspicious, aggressive.The alcoholic’s appetite is reduced, which often accelerates ethanol poisoning and acute dehydration of the body with abstinence syndrome.Cognitive functions such as memory and thinking-are increasingly disrupted
3rd stageDrunkenness becomes daily, even if there were periods of “calm” in the previous stages of chronic alcohol abuse. The addict falls asleep with an anxious sleep for a couple of hours from time to time and then drinks again. And this can go on for weeks. These are the so-called “true binge drinking”.When the person refuses alcohol at the last stage of chronic alcohol abuse, abstinence is extremely difficult and lasts up to 7-10 days. Many addicts cannot survive the withdrawal and immediately go into another binge.The psyche is deformed, which is only aggravated by conflicts with the inner circle caused by drunkenness.Situational control is also lost along with quantitative control. Alcohol is obtained by any means, without taking into account ethical and social norms of behavior. An addict who sells things from home can commit a crime.The addict’s health is completely wasted due to the constant consumption of alcoholic beverages. Chronic diseases of the internal organs reach their peak, speech is disturbed. A person may periodically have epileptic seizures, alcoholic psychoses, hypertension, convulsions of the extremities. The patient has sharp mood swings from causeless joy to pitiful emotions. He becomes selfish and indifferent to his loved ones. Binge drinking is accompanied by amnesia

Consequences of chronic alcohol abuse

The physical and psychological dependence on alcohol changes a person’s life. What are the negative consequences of chronic alcohol abuse?

  1. Health is deteriorating. After 15 years of continuous consumption of alcoholic beverages, all the internal organs are affected to one degree or another. According to the data, 60-70 % of men with chronic alcohol abuse do not live beyond the age of 50.
  2. People who abuse alcoholic beverages are more often exposed to various types of injuries. This is dangerous both for the addict and for those who are close to him.
  3. The addict loses his family and close friends. He is surrounded only by similar asocial personalities. He also may drink all alone.
  4. An alcoholic loses the ability to earn a living, becomes degraded as a person and abandons his values and life principles.
The study of the direct causes of death in chronic alcohol abuse showed that 47% of deaths were due to acute heart failure. The second of the most common causes of death due to chronic alcohol abuse are liver diseases (36 %). [6/1]

Remission and relapse in chronic alcohol abuse

The most difficult task in the chronic alcohol abuse treatment which doctors try to perform is the achievement of a stable remission of the disease. But given the fact that the patient is addicted to alcohol not only on a physical level but also on a psycho-emotional level, constant relapses complicate the therapy. That is why there is an opinion that “there are no former alcoholics”.

When the treatment in the hospital comes to an end, the former alcoholic waits for discharge and subsequent adaptation within society. This is a difficult period for the addict. He/she needs the moral support of loved ones in order not to break down again. Doctors recommend that patients avoid meetings with drinking buddies in every possible way. This is especially true for men. It is believed that relapses more often occur precisely because of emotional pressure from the inner environment. A former alcoholic must find a permanent job and an interesting hobby. A hobby will provide a distraction from the stress associated with giving up alcohol.

Doctors manage to remove the pronounced symptoms of chronic alcohol abuse with medications. But the craving for alcohol will be a torment for a long time after the end of treatment in the hospital. In some cases, this period lasts for up to 3-5 years. And even then, the former alcoholic will occasionally think about drinking. Conscious abstinence from drinking alcohol often causes the appearance of signs of a “pseudo-hangover”. The addict no longer drinks, but continues to suffer from abstinence syndrome. This complicates the treatment, as there is a threat of another relapse.

Experts have identified 3 stages of chronic alcohol abuse remission — initial, intermediate, formed. [7.1]

Course of remissionDurationCharacteristic features
1st stage (initial, unstable, forced)Up to 1 yearThis is the formation of an alcoholic remission. It is believed that this period is the most difficult for the addict since the physical and mental craving for alcohol is still strong. The patient has constant mood swings. He feels bad because of a “pseudo-hangover” and diseases of internal organs caused by long-term alcohol consumption
2nd stage (intermediate)1-3 yearsThis period is characterized by a gradual softening of the psychopathological symptoms of chronic alcohol abuse. The addict regains interest in life, he looks better, finds interesting hobbies, begins to work.But the craving for alcohol remains. The patient has an acute desire to drink, which threatens a relapse from time to time, due to external reasons.
Stage 3 (stable)3-5 yearsThe remission is already fully formed. During this period, the patient does not have affective disorders, there are no dreams of alcohol, pseudoabstinent manifestations do not make themselves felt.There is a stable attitude to sobriety on even emotional background. A former alcoholic has plans for his future life, he is determined to save his family or build a relationship with a new partner

Unfortunately, not all patients with diagnosed chronic alcohol abuse achieve stable remission with the treatment. Often a person is in a vicious circle of endless relapses and remissions. Experts emphasize many reasons that can lead to a breakdown and return to addiction:

  • unstable labor status (frequent job changes, unemployment);
  • dysfunctional family relationships (conflicts due to drunkenness or a divorce with a husband/wife that has already begun);
  • panic attacks against the background of alcohol withdrawal from time to time;
  • a high level of depression and apathy. [7.1]

We will help you to give up alcohol

Make for consultation WATCH VIDEO

Is it possible to cure chronic alcohol abuse?

Treatment of chronic alcohol abuse is carried out in a drug treatment hospital. The primary task of doctors is to bring the addict out of the binge condition and normalize the patient’s physical condition. Drug therapy is prescribed to relieve intoxication of the body, eliminate toxins and relieve acute abstinence syndrome.

If the patient agrees to further therapy to get rid of the pathological habit forever, doctors offer certain methods of treatment based on the anamnesis (“experience” of addiction, age and general health). It is important not only to normalize the state of the internal organs affected by prolonged alcohol consumption by medication but also to teach the patient to live without alcohol. This is facilitated by psychotherapy. The addict works with a psychologist before the onset of persistent remission. The patient has a long way to go before remission of the disease. Specialists also work with close relatives of the addict. They mustn’t just control the behavior of a person, not letting him/her drink, but also offer support. The risk of breakdowns is high in stressful situations, which will be common in the process of treatment. The love and understanding of relatives are what a reforming addict needs.

Behavioral psychology aimed at changing the destructive behavior model shows an excellent result in the treatment of chronic alcohol abuse at all stages. One of the new methods is the patented 7Spsy behavior modification technology for alcohol addiction based on the theories of I.P. Pavlov, B.F. Skinner and A.A. Ukhtomsky. The 7Spsy course will help you get rid of alcohol abuse in a short time.

Completing the course will help the addict to change those negative attitudes that lead to a new bottle again and again. A person will begin to understand that drinking is not a solution to life’s problems, and especially not a way to relieve stress. He/she will become aware of the destructive power of alcohol. By developing willpower and mastering a healthy behavior model, the individual will learn to enjoy a “new” life where there is no place for alcohol and drinking buddies.

The course on behavior modification technology is designed for up to 6 weeks. A person who has decided to fight the abuse that is poisoning him/her will not have to advertise the fact that he/she is undergoing training. Classes are strictly confidential. A convenient remote format of the course will allow the individual to relax as much as possible, forgetting about the discomfort. Specialists answer all questions and advise by e-mail, in chats and by phone.


  1. Alcohol addiction. Medical encyclopaedia (https://dic.academic.ru/dic.nsf/enc_medicine/1931/%D0%90%D0%BB%D0%BA%D0%BE%D0%B3%D0%BE%D0%BB%D0%B8%D0%B7%D0%BC).
  2. “Pathological craving for alcohol. Clinical and therapy issues”, 1994. V.B. Altshuler.
  3. “Emotional features of the personality of alcohol-addicted men”, V.V. Pushina (https://cyberleninka.ru/article/v/eemotsionalnye-svoystva-lichnosti-muzhchin-bolnyh-alkogolizmom).
  4. “Women’s alcohol addiction”, 1988. B.M. Guzikov.
  5. “Alcohol addiction clinic: narcology guide”, 2002. V.B. Altshuler
  6. “Alcohol addiction: visceropathology and causes of death”, Yu.I. Galchikov (https://cyberleninka.ru/article/v/hronicheskiy-alkogolizm-vistseropatologiya-i-prichiny-smerti),
  7. “Remissions for alcohol addiction”, 1987, T.N. Balashova.