Alcoholism – How Long Does It Take to Become an Alcoholic?

It can take as little as a few weeks to months or even years to develop alcohol use disorder. The amount of time it takes to develop an addiction to alcohol can vary depending on the individual, their environment, family history and the amount and frequency of alcohol consumption.

Some individuals may develop a physical dependence on alcohol in just a few weeks, while others may take months or even years to develop a full-blown addiction to heavy drinking.

What is Alcohol Addiction?

Alcohol addiction, also known as alcoholism, is a mental health disorder that is characterized by a strong physical and psychological dependence on alcohol. People with this disorder experience cravings for alcohol, impaired control over their drinking, tolerance to its effects, and physical and psychological symptoms of withdrawal if they attempt to stop drinking. Alcohol abuse can lead to serious health problems, financial and legal issues, and damage to relationships. 

Overview of the Process of Becoming Addicted to Alcohol

The process of becoming addicted to alcohol is a complex one that can happen to anyone. It usually starts with a person drinking alcohol for recreational purposes.

Over time, this can lead to a person drinking alcohol more frequently and in larger amounts than intended which can lead to physical and mental dependence on alcohol and a person may find it difficult to control their drinking.

One may begin to experience withdrawal symptoms when not drinking, such as anxiety, shaking and sweating. One may also experience cravings for alcohol and find themselves unable to control their drinking even when faced with negative consequences.

It can cause physical and psychological damage, as well as disruption to one’s personal, professional and social life.

Withdrawal from alcohol can be dangerous and should always be done under the care of a medical professional. With the right help, it is possible to break the cycle of addiction and regain control over one’s life. 

Factors that Influence Addiction Rate and How Long It Takes to Become an Alcoholic

Unfortunately, it can take as little as one exposure to alcohol for someone to become addicted. Even if someone is not physically dependent on alcohol, they may still be psychologically addicted, meaning they feel the need to drink even if they don’t want to. 

Risk factors that can influence how quickly addiction can happen includes:

1. The type of alcohol consumed can have a significant impact on the rate of addiction. Those who consume hard alcohol, such as vodka and whiskey, are more likely to become addicted to it than those who consume beer or wine. This is because hard alcohol contains higher levels of ethanol, which is the intoxicating component of alcohol. High levels of ethanol cause a more intense intoxication, which can lead to more frequent drinking, and thus an increased risk of addiction. 

2. The amount of alcohol consumed can have a significant influence on addiction rates. Studies have found that heavy or binge drinking can increase the likelihood of developing an addiction to alcohol because when people consistently drink large amounts, the body can become physically dependent on the substance. Additionally, people who drink heavily are more likely to develop tolerance, meaning that they need to consume alcohol in order to experience the same effects. As these physical and psychological changes take place, it can be even harder for an individual to reduce or stop their drinking, resulting in an addiction. 

3. Biological make-up can influence addiction rate in several ways. Genetics can play a role since some individuals may have a higher risk of developing an addiction due to their genetic predisposition. Hormones and neurotransmitters play a role in the reward system of the brain which can be altered by certain drugs or alcohol, leading to increased cravings for these substances and a greater chance of addiction. 

4. Environment can play a major role in influencing alcohol dependence rates. Environmental factors such as a person’s upbringing, peer pressure, access to drugs and alcohol, poverty levels and the availability of treatment and support systems can all contribute to addiction rates. For example, a person who is raised in an environment where drugs and alcohol are easily accessible may be more likely to experiment with and develop a drinking problem. Those living in poverty may be more likely to turn to drugs and start drinking alcohol as a way to cope with stress and financial hardship. Lastly, a lack of access to treatment and support systems can increase the likelihood of relapse for those who are already struggling with addiction.

5. Co-occurring disorders can have a significant influence on addiction rates. People who suffer from a mental health condition, such as depression or anxiety, are more likely to abuse alcohol as a means of self-medication. Those with co-occurring disorders are more likely to have multiple substance use disorders, which can lead to a rapid escalation of addiction severity and an increased risk of relapse. It is important to be properly diagnosed so proper treatment can be provided.

Alcohol Treatment Options for Problem Drinking

Detox Programs

  • Detox programs for alcoholism are designed to help individuals safely and effectively manage the physical symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. They are typically medically supervised, which helps to ensure that the individual is comfortable and safe throughout the process.
  • During detox, individuals will usually be administered medication to help manage the withdrawal symptoms, such as anxiety, insomnia, tremors and reduces the risk of seizure.
  • Detox programs usually include support from a team of professionals, including medical staff, counselors and addiction specialists. 
  • Detox programs are the first step on the path to recovery from alcoholism, providing individuals with the necessary resources and support to begin the journey of recovery.

Inpatient / Residential Programs 

Inpatient programs for alcoholism provide a safe and supportive environment away from one’s home environment for individuals to:

  • learn skills that are needed for sobriety
  • recognize their triggers 
  • learn how to cope without the use of alcohol
  • develop healthy coping strategies 
  • improve communication skills, problem-solving 
  • make lifestyle changes

Participants will benefit from a variety of therapeutic approaches, including individual, group and family counseling sessions and receive education about the dangers of alcohol and its potential to cause physical, emotional and spiritual harm. 

Outpatient Treatment Programs 

Outpatient treatment programs provide individuals struggling with alcohol addiction with the opportunity to receive professional care and support while maintaining some of the normal aspects of their daily life.

They typically involve regular visits to an alcohol rehab center, counseling sessions and participation in support groups. These programs can also include education and therapy sessions, which can help individuals learn how to manage their addiction and develop healthier habits and behaviors.

The intensity of the program depends on the program itself and what it offers as well as the individual’s needs. Participants in outpatient programs also have access to medications that can help reduce cravings and help them stay sober.

The ultimate goal of outpatient treatment programs is to help individuals regain control of their lives, build a strong support network and develop the skills they need to stay sober and navigate their recovery journey.


Therapy is an important part of successful alcohol recovery. There are several types of therapies available to help individuals struggling with alcoholism, including:

1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) helps individuals identify and change unhealthy thought patterns and behaviors related to alcohol use.

2. Motivational Interviewing (MI) is a counseling technique that encourages individuals to recognize their own motivation to change their drinking habits.

3. Group Therapy sessions provide individuals with a safe and supportive environment to share their experiences and gain support from others.

4. 12-Step Programs provide a structured approach to recovery based on self-reflection and support from other members.

5. Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) combines counseling and medication to help individuals overcome alcohol withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings.

No matter which type of therapy is chosen, it is important to find a therapist or program that is specifically tailored to the individual’s needs. With the right support, individuals struggling with alcohol addiction can create a sustainable path to recovery.

Drinking Too Much? We Can Help Free You of Alcoholism

At Luxe Recovery, you will have the opportunity to speak with our friendly and knowledgeable admissions staff to discuss your situation and what treatment options are available including detox, counseling options and aftercare. If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, please do get in touch with us today.

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