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How Long Does It Take to Get Addicted to Alcohol?

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Have you—or your loved one—lost control over your drinking? It can happen sooner than you might think.

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How long does it take to become an alcoholic?

That’s sort of like asking how long it takes to drive from Boston to Denver. It depends on how fast you are driving, how many stops you take and what kind of a car you have.

If you want to avoid getting into trouble for going too fast, you’ve got to follow the speed limit.

There’s a speed limit for drinking, too. It’s set by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and looks like this: Women should drink no more than three drinks on any single day and no more than seven drinks per week. Men should drink no more than four drinks on any single day and no more than 14 drinks per week.

Drinking more than that doesn’t mean you’re addicted to alcohol, but it does increase your risk of that happening. It also increases your risk of certain health issues, especially liver damage.

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If you like to drink—and more than half of Americans do—you obviously want to make sure that you’re not drinking so much that you’re at risk of becoming addicted to alcohol. But that’s not the only concern. Even if you’re not an alcoholic, you could be damaging your liver.

But let’s be honest: If you—or your loved one—likes to drink, it’s not hard to cross the line by indulging in more than three or four drinks on one occasion. And there may also be weeks where you blow past the recommended weekly maximum.

Drinking can be fun and social. But, if you’re reading this article, you’re probably smart enough to know that it can also destroy lives—and want to make sure that never happens to you or your loved one.

So how long does it take to become addicted to alcohol? Honestly, we’ve seen it all.

There are kids who take their first sip at age 11 and ramp up their drinking to the point where they’re full-blown alcoholics by age 20. (Minors are especially susceptible to the risks of alcohol.)

Then there are those who hum along for decades as social drinkers until a major life event—such as divorce or job loss—launches them into heavier drinking that spirals into addiction.

In other words, there is no standard time frame for becoming addicted to alcohol. You can minimize your risk by following the safe drinking guidelines we already talked about and be on the lookout for signs of potential addiction.

Alcohol Dependence Symptoms

Many people think that you’re only addicted to alcohol if you drink every morning or if your hands shake when you take a break from drinking. In reality, those are pretty advanced symptoms. You can be drinking enough to become dependent on alcohol—and damage your liver—without experiencing either of those. Here are a few warning signs to look out for:

  • Not being able to set limits on your drinking and stick with them. That could mean drinking more often than planned or having more drinks than planned on a particular day.
  • Having a life that revolves either around drinking or recovering from drinking. You may find that old hobbies that don’t involve drinking are losing their appeal.
  • Continuing to drink even though it’s causing problems with family, friends or at work
  • Having to continuously drink more to achieve the same effect
  • Experiencing frequent blackouts
  • Withdrawal symptoms such as restlessness, anxiety or trouble sleeping
  • Putting yourself in risky situations by drinking, such as driving while buzzed or drunk or having unsafe sex
  • Using alcohol to deal with stress
  • Trying to hide drinking from others

Hope at The Raleigh House

The Raleigh House is a residential treatment center located in Denver that believes in an integrated approach to managing addiction. What does that mean? We don’t just address the substance abuse. We delve into the deeper issues, needs or conditions that drove the addiction. Fill out our form or contact us today to learn more about the alcohol addiction treatment program at The Raleigh House.

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