A person can get addicted to alcohol not long after starting to drink

How Long Can it Take to Get Addicted to Alcohol?

Alcohol is one of the most commonly abused substances in the United States and in many other places throughout the world. Alcohol use disorder (the clinical term for alcoholism) typically places high on lists of the most prevalent types of addiction. Frequently asked questions about this disorder include how long does it take to get addicted to alcohol, and what are the best ways to treat alcoholism?

How Long Does it Take to Get Addicted to Alcohol?

Questions about the development of mental or behavioral health disorders rarely have simple answers. This includes queries such as how long does it take to get addicted to alcohol.

The amount of time it takes for someone to develop alcohol use disorder can vary according to several factors, including:

  • Their age, developmental level, weight, and metabolism
  • How much (and how frequently) they have been drinking
  • If they have any co-occurring mental health disorders
  • If they have a personal history of untreated trauma
  • If they have a family history of substance abuse and addiction

Some people may begin to develop alcohol addiction over the course of a few weeks of heavy drinking. For others, the process can take months or even years. 

As described by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), when a person abuses alcohol over an extended period, the continued presence of this substance can cause both functional and structural changes in their brain. These changes can push the individual to drink more often, and they can prevent the person from stopping once they have begun.

Many significant brain changes may occur in the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for functions such as making decisions, prioritizing tasks, and organizing thoughts. The length of time it takes a person to progress from alcohol abuse to alcohol addiction can depend on their brain’s ability to resist such significant changes.

How Long Does it Take to Overcome Alcohol Addiction?

As with the question, “How long does it take to get addicted to alcohol,” the answer to questions about how long it takes to overcome this disorder can be quite complex.

Since alcohol addiction is a chronic, relapsing disease, the goal of treatment isn’t to “cure” a person. Instead, most reputable alcohol addiction treatment programs focus on helping people learn how to manage their emotions, respond to triggers, and resist future urges to drink.

A person’s time in treatment can range from a few days in detox to a few months in inpatient and outpatient care. But the effort to remain abstinent from alcohol is a lifelong pursuit. 

For some people, maintaining healthy recovery requires ongoing engagement with 12-step groups or other recovery support organizations. For others, reliance on a small network of trusted friends and family members is key. Still others may occasionally return to treatment to address setbacks or refocus their efforts.

Woman getting help after she found out how long it does take to get addicted to alcohol

What Are the Best Ways to Treat Alcoholism?

Here are two important concepts to keep in mind when you’re evaluating treatment options for alcohol addiction:

  • There is no single “perfect” type of treatment that works for everyone.
  • Focus your attention on finding the facility whose services match your needs and preferences. 

When it comes to finding the right center, pay attention to levels of care Depending on the nature of your addiction, you may need one or more of the following:

  • Detoxification: This is a short-term experience that can help you rid your body of alcohol without endangering your health. In severe cases, trying to get through alcohol withdrawal on your own can be quite dangerous, and sometimes even deadly.
  • Inpatient rehab: At this level, you will live at the center where you’re receiving treatment. Features of inpatient rehab include multiple types of therapy, round-the-clock support, and a safe, drug-free environment.
  • Outpatient care: Some outpatient programs operate five days per week, while others provide fewer days of care. One of the other main differences between inpatient and outpatient care is that when the outpatient treatment day ends, you will return to your home or to an alternative supported residence.

Within these levels of care, you may receive a variety of therapies and support services to help you end your alcohol use and build a foundation for a healthier life in recovery. During detox, you may also benefit from certain prescription medications to safeguard your health and suppress some of the more distressing withdrawal symptoms.

The therapeutic element of care for alcohol addiction typically focuses on educating people and preparing them to resist relapse. To accomplish that, your care may involve elements such as the following:

Prior to completing your time in treatment, you should also receive a discharge plan. This document can connect you with the services and resources that will support your continued progress in the months and years to come.

Contact Sanctuary Treatment Center About Treating Alcohol Addiction

Sanctuary Treatment Center is a respected source of life-affirming care for adults whose lives have been disrupted by alcohol addiction and certain co-occurring mental health concerns. At our addiction treatment center in Southern California, you can work in close collaboration with a team of dedicated and compassionate professionals. With our help, you can make significant strides toward a much healthier future, free from the constraints of compulsive alcohol abuse.

When you’re ready to begin or resume your recovery journey, the Sanctuary Treatment Center team is here for you. To learn more about our programs and services, or to schedule a free assessment, please visit our Contact Us page or call us today.

Am I addicted to alcohol

Am I Addicted to Alcohol?

The question is deceptively brief. Just five simple words. But the answer can be life changing: Am I addicted to alcohol?

For millions of people in the United States, the answer to this question is yes. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), more than 14 million adults in the U.S. met the criteria for alcohol addiction in 2019.

The good news is that alcohol addiction is a treatable condition. The bad news is that many people who have become addicted to alcohol don’t get the care they need.

Being able to answer the question, “Am I addicted to alcohol?” can be a vital step on the path to a much healthier future.

What is Alcohol Addiction?

Alcohol addiction, which is commonly referred to as alcoholism, is a chronic, progressive disorder that is characterized by an inability to control how much alcohol you consume or how often you use this dangerous drug.

  • The term “chronic” means that alcohol addiction is a lifelong condition. It is not a curable disorder, but when you get effective treatment, you can learn to manage your symptoms and regain control of your thoughts and actions.
  • The word “progressive” means that if you don’t get help, the symptoms of alcohol addiction will become more severe over time. This isn’t a problem that will simply disappear if you ignore it.

Here are a few things that alcoholism is not: It is not a moral failure, a sign of low character, or evidence of insufficient willpower. 

Decades of awareness initiatives have improved public understanding of this condition, but certain unfortunate stereotypes – such as the ones alluded to in the previous paragraph – persist. Stigma is one of the many reasons why many people who develop alcohol addiction don’t seek the help they need.

When you summon the strength to say, “Yes, I am addicted to alcohol,” this is not an admission that you are an inherently flawed person. It is a simple acknowledgement that you have a treatable behavioral health disorder, and that you have the courage to get the help that can significantly improve your life.

How Can I Tell if I Am Addicted to Alcohol?

To be accurately diagnosed with alcohol use disorder (which is the clinical term for alcoholism), you need to be assessed by a qualified professional. The following 10 questions can help you determine if you should schedule an assessment:

  1. Do you need alcohol to help you wake up in the morning or to get to sleep at night?
  2. Once you start drinking, do you find it difficult to stop?
  3. Has your alcohol use caused you to neglect personal or professional responsibilities?
  4. Do you feel like you need alcohol to experience happiness or to cope with stress?
  5. Do you become agitated, anxious, or depressed when you’re in a situation where you can’t drink?
  6. Have you used alcohol in situations where it was clearly dangerous to do so, such as prior to driving or when taking medication?
  7. Have you ever lied to your friends or family members about the amount and frequency of your drinking?
  8. Has your drinking been a source of conflict with your partner, friends, or family members?
  9. Have you tried to quit or reduce the amount of your drinking, but been unable to do so?
  10. Have you ever asked yourself, “Am I addicted to alcohol?”

No single symptom or experience is definitive proof that a person has alcohol use disorder. But if you answered yes to any of the questions above, you may be addicted to alcohol – or you may be at risk for developing alcohol addiction. 

What Are My Options for Overcoming Alcohol Addiction?

I have completed an assessment, and I know I am addicted to alcohol. What do I do now?

Depending on the nature and severity of your dependence on alcohol, your ideal course of treatment may involve one or more of the following:

  • Detoxification: Commonly referred to as detox, detoxification is short-term program that can help you get through alcohol withdrawal safely and with minimal distress. When you enter a detox program, you will be under the care of experienced professionals who can provide both medical and therapeutic support. 
  • Inpatient rehab: Inpatient rehab is a highly structured form of treatment that typically includes multiple forms of therapy, education about addiction and recovery, and round-the-clock supervision. When you are in an inpatient rehab program, you will live at the center where you are receiving care. One of the benefits of this level of care is that it allows you to temporarily step away from the stresses and distractions of daily life. 
  • Outpatient treatment: Outpatient programs usually include several types of therapy, but they don’t have a residential requirement. When treatment is not in session, you can return home or to an alternative supported residence. Depending on your needs and goals, you may step down to the outpatient level to get additional support after completing inpatient rehab, or you may enter treatment directly at the outpatient level.
  • Support groups: Maintaining recovery from alcohol addiction is a lifelong effort. During treatment, you can discover the value of shared support within the recovery community. You can also learn how to develop an effective personal support network. This may include participating in 12-Step meetings, attending SMART Recovery events, or engaging with other efforts that can help you protect your sobriety.

Begin Treatment for Alcohol Addiction in Southern California

Sanctuary Treatment Center provides multiple levels of personalized care for adults who have become addicted to alcohol. We also provide customized treatment for clients whose struggles with alcohol are accompanied by certain co-occurring mental health concerns. If alcohol addiction has disrupted your life or the life of someone you care about, Sanctuary Treatment Center is here to help. Contact us today to learn more.

We Take Insurance!

Sanctuary Treatment Center accepts most private PPO insurance plans, as well as some private HMO plans. Through private insurance plans, individuals and families can access high quality addiction treatment services. If you have questions regarding insurances, please give us a call.

Sanctuary Treatment Center in Los Angeles is a Joint Commission accredited rehab center

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