How Long Does It Take to Get Addicted to Alcohol?
Most people can handle moderate alcohol consumption without developing a problem. Many cannot. An estimated 32 million Americans—more than 10% of America’s population—are addicted to alcohol.
How do you go from having a drink to having a drinking problem? How long does it take to go from occasional drinker to alcoholic?
It is hard to quantify exactly how long it takes for addiction to occur. There’s really not a controlled method of studying all instances—it’s a moving target, often with varying degrees of contributing factors. Such as—
How Old Were You When You Started Drinking?
Studies have consistently shown the younger you are when you start drinking, the more likely you are to get addicted.
Do You Have a Family History of Addiction?
A family history of alcoholism greatly increases your risk of alcohol addiction. Studies have shown that having a first-degree relative who is an alcoholic makes you 86% more likely to develop an addiction yourself. A second-degree relative, 54% more likely. A first and second-degree relative? You’re 167% more likely to develop an addiction.
Did You Have Adverse Childhood Experiences?
Adverse childhood experiences have been associated with a number of poor health and psychological issues. Studies have linked these childhood experiences with increased likelihood of alcohol abuse.
Am I An Alcoholic?
People who are struggling with alcoholism often don’t recognize there is a problem. You’re reading this post because you want to know—
Is my alcohol consumption developing into a life-threatening addiction?
The following questionnaire is based on the factors used to diagnose substance use disorders, as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Substance Use Disorders (DSM-5).
As you ask yourself these questions, note how many you’d give a “yes” answer.
- 2-3: A mild substance use disorder could be diagnosed.
- 4-5: This indicates a moderate substance use disorder.
- 6 or more: Addiction or another type of severe substance use disorder is likely.
Do I regularly drink more than I plan to?
Many people can casually drink at a party, having one or two drinks over a few hours and then stopping. However, people struggling with alcohol abuse or alcoholism might find they’ve lost track of how many drinks they’ve had. They may also find that they’ve been drinking for several hours without realizing it—much longer than they had intended.
Has my drinking interfered in my personal relationships?
Substance abuse can often become a sticking point in relationships. When the amount of alcohol that a person is consuming becomes a concern to loved ones, challenges can arise that include:
- Loss of intimacy
- Betrayal of trust
- Not living up to expectations
The real hallmark, however, is not just that these things are happening, but that the individual struggling with alcohol abuse cannot stop drinking regardless of potential negative relationship consequences.
Is my drinking causing health problems, and do I keep doing it anyway?
Long-term effects of alcohol abuse can cause physical and psychological health issues other than alcoholism itself. Physical conditions are caused by alcohol toxicity and the ways alcohol affects how body systems function. Resulting mental and physical health problems may include:
- Heart disease, heart attack, or stroke
- Digestive issues or conditions, including some cancers
- Liver damage, scarring, cirrhosis, and failure
- Brain damage, cognitive issues, or memory loss
- Depression or other mood disorders
- Worsening anxiety
Do I drink in risky situations?
Drinking before driving? Drinking at work? Drinking and promiscuity? Alcohol consumption relaxes a person’s usual inhibitions, making it more likely that the person will participate in activities that would normally be avoided. The result can be injury, illness, or even death as a result of drinking alcohol and taking undue risks on a regular basis.
Have the effects of drinking alcohol diminished over time, or is more alcohol required to have the same effect as before?
Regular and heavy substance abuse over time can result in a condition called tolerance, where the effects of alcohol do not seem to be as strong as they were when the person first started drinking. This may manifest as the person needing to have more alcohol to feel the same euphoric effects that used to occur with just one or two drinks.
Do I have cravings or urges to drink alcohol?
When the person is not engaging in alcohol use, urges to drink may become uncontrollable, leading the person to seek out an opportunity to drink. Sometimes, these cravings may be triggered by certain situations, such as stress or being with people who encourage heavy drinking.
If I stop drinking, do I experience uncomfortable physical and mental symptoms?
Other symptoms can include:
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Stomach upset, nausea, or diarrhea
- Headache and body aches
- Inability to focus
- Heart palpitations
Recognizing you need help is a vitally important first step.
If this questionnaire has revealed the possibility that even a mild alcohol use disorder is present, it is important for you to seek out a treatment professional for a thorough diagnosis and assistance in managing the disorder. The risk of a more severe disorder developing can lead to any or all of the risks described above.
If you recognize these signs in yourself or someone you love, we can help.
At Honey Lake Clinic, we believe faith-based treatment, encompassing your spiritual, physical and mental health, will provide you with the long-lasting tools and knowledge you need to break alcohol’s grip.