According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, roughly 7% of adults over the age of 18 have a drinking problem. This doesn’t mean that everyone who drinks becomes addicted. In fact, drinking at bars and parties is positioned as a way to relax and enjoy yourself with friends and family.
But the reality is drinking can have extremely negative consequences. And the progression of alcoholism can escalate quickly and without warning.
Alcohol has a dark side that can ruin lives if not handled with caution, so let’s take a look at how long it actually takes for alcoholism to develop and how to tell if you have a drinking problem.
An Inside Look at the Progression of Alcoholism
There are many factors that affect how quickly a person develops an alcohol addiction, if at all. These factors include age, genetics, gender and even social environment:
- Gender: According to the CDC, heavy drinking for men is defined by having 15 or more drinks a week. For women, it’s defined as having more than 8 drinks per week. This level of drinking can quickly lead to alcoholism.
- Genetics: According to research by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, half of the risk for developing an alcohol use disorder is due to genetics. A genetic predisposition to alcohol abuse, plus other factors like environmental influencers, can lead to addiction.
- Environment: The American Journal on Addiction has research that shows the higher level of stress your environment has the more likely you are to develop an alcohol addiction. Other environmental factors like peer pressure or living with someone who drinks can also increase the likelihood of alcohol abuse.
- Psychological Diagnosis: People who suffer from depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder are more likely to develop an alcohol use disorder. For example, 40% of people diagnosed with bi-polar disorder abuse alcohol and 20% of those with depression and anxiety become addicted to alcohol.
Alcoholism isn’t something that just happens out of the blue all at once – it’s a pattern of behavior that intensifies over time. What may have started as social drinking can easily turn into a dependency you don’t even realize until it’s too late.
Given this knowledge, the question of how long it takes to become an alcoholic greatly depends on the above factors, how often you drink and why you’re drinking. In addition to understanding the risk factors that can influence if you become addicted to alcohol or not, it’s also important to recognize the signs of alcoholism.
How to Tell if You’re an Alcoholic
Given what we see in television shows and movies, many people think you’re only addicted to alcohol if you start your day off drunk or suffer withdrawal symptoms whenever you don’t have a drink in your hand.
In reality, these are rare and extreme cases. In fact, you can still develop an alcohol dependence and still cause damage to your body without experiencing these types of severe symptoms.
If you’re wondering how to tell if you’re an alcoholic, these warning signs can help shed some light on the answer:
- You’re unable to control the amount of alcohol you consume
- You’ve experienced extreme mood swings or irritability
- You’ve lost interest in hobbies or activities you once found enjoyable
- Drinking is becoming a higher priority over family and work
- You have increased cravings for alcohol
- You’re drinking more in secrecy or trying to hide it from loved ones
- You’re participating in dangerous and risky behaviors, such as driving under the influence
It’s important to note that even if you have developed an alcohol addiction, it doesn’t need to be a life sentence. Recovery is possible. In fact, just by reading this article, you’re taking an important first step against the progression of alcoholism and seeking the help you deserve.
Alcohol Addiction Treatment at Fountain Hills Recovery
Fountain Hills Recovery is a residential facility in Fountain Hills, Arizona that specializes in alcohol abuse treatment. We incorporate action-based goals and a holistic integrated care team to help you successfully overcome alcoholism and find lasting recovery.