How Long Does it Take to Get Addicted to Alcohol?

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Alcohol is one of the most widely consumed substances in the world, and for many people, it can be an enjoyable and social part of life. Many people who consume alcohol may be wondering, “how long does it take to get addicted to alcohol?”.

That said, alcohol can also be highly addictive and can lead to a range of negative consequences for those who develop an addiction. But how long does it take to get addicted to alcohol? This is a question that many people may have, and the answer is not straightforward.

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In today’s guide, we’ll explore the factors that contribute to the development of alcohol addiction, the signs and symptoms of alcohol addiction, and how long it may take for a person to become addicted to alcohol. By understanding these factors, you can take steps to prevent the development of alcohol addiction and seek help if needed.

How Easy is it To Get Addicted to Alcohol?

How fast can you get addicted to alcohol?

Nobody sets out to become an alcoholic, but regular or heavy drinking can lead to the development of alcohol dependence and alcoholism – a nonclinical term for alcohol use disorder.

NIAAA (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism) reports that moderate drinking is classified as up to two daily alcoholic drinks for men and up to one daily drink for women. It is also recommended that men drink no more than four alcoholic beverages in one day, and no more than 14 drinks in one week. It is recommended that women consume no more than three drinks in one day, and no more than seven drinks per week.

If you adhere to these moderate drinking guidelines, you will be at low risk of developing alcoholism.

When you consume alcohol, the substance enters your brain where it disrupts the balance of neurotransmitters – chemical messengers – triggering the physical signs and behavioral changes associated with alcohol intoxication. These include: 

  • Drowsiness
  • Slurred speech
  • Loss of coordination
  • Reduced inhibitions
  • Euphoria

If you consume alcohol infrequently, these effects will be fleeting and subside when alcohol is metabolized. If you continue to drink alcohol regularly, your brain starts to compensate for these effects, provoking a chain of long-term chemical changes in the brain. As an example, alcohol slows the brain, so the brain will start increasing the activity of neurotransmitters that heighten arousal and stimulate nerve activity – these are called excitatory neurotransmitters

As brain changes occur, tolerance to alcohol forms, often prompting increased consumption and escalating patterns of alcohol abuse. Additionally, you will start to experience powerful cravings for alcohol. If you become physically dependent on alcohol, aggravating withdrawal symptoms will present in its absence.

Dependence often leads to addiction in the form of alcohol use disorder, a chronic, relapsing, and progressive condition. The ease with which alcohol addiction develops is contingent on many factors, including: 

  • Genetics
  • Environment cues
  • Social issues
  • Co-occurring mental health conditions

While some people may be more susceptible to developing alcohol use disorder than others, the sustained use of alcohol almost always leads to tolerance, dependence, and addiction – it’s just a matter of time, whether that is months or years.

How can you recognize the signs and symptoms of alcohol addiction so you can seek professional help if necessary?

An image of a man thinking about the signs and symptoms of alcohol addiction

Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Addiction

Here are a few warning signs of alcohol dependence to look out for:


The most common signs of alcohol addiction include:

  • Tolerance to alcohol
  • Experiencing frequent blackouts
  • Alcohol withdrawal symptoms
  • Using alcohol as a coping mechanism
  • Consuming alcohol in potentially dangerous situations
  • Drop in personal hygiene
  • Weight gain
  • Concealing alcohol use
  • Inability to control alcohol intake
  • Spending lots of time drinking alcohol and recovering from its effects
  • Neglecting personal and professional responsibilities
  • Giving up favored activities


According to DSM-5-TR (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, Text Revision), there are eleven symptoms of alcohol addiction: 

  1. Cravings for alcohol
  2. Difficulty controlling alcohol intake
  3. Withdrawal symptoms when not drinking
  4. Increased tolerance for alcohol
  5. Spending a lot of time drinking or recovering from alcohol use
  6. Giving up important activities to drink
  7. Continuing to drink despite negative consequences
  8. Drinking despite physical or mental health problems
  9. Ongoing alcohol abuse despite interpersonal problems
  10. Needing more alcohol to achieve the same effects
  11. Continued drinking despite wanting to stop or cut back

If you or a loved one is experiencing any of these symptoms, seek professional help to streamline the recovery process. Alcohol addiction is a treatable condition, and recovery is possible with the right support and treatment.

Treatment for Alcohol Addiction

Alcohol addiction is a serious and complex condition that requires a comprehensive treatment approach. The most effective treatment for alcohol addiction typically involves a combination of medical detoxification, MAT (medication-assisted treatment), behavioral therapies, and ongoing support.

Here are the best treatments for alcohol addiction:

  • Medical detoxification: Alcohol withdrawal, also known as EtOH withdrawal, can be dangerous and potentially life-threatening. By engaging with a supervised medical detox program, you will receive 24/7 clinical supervision and support so you can safely withdraw from alcohol. Medications may be used to mitigate the severity of alcohol withdrawal symptoms and ensure that the detox process is as safe and comfortable as possible.
  • Inpatient or outpatient rehab: Detox addresses the issue of physical dependence, while ongoing treatment will help you tackle the psychological component of alcohol addiction. Those with severe alcohol addictions, co-occurring mental health disorders, or unstable home environments may benefit from 30 days or more at an inpatient treatment center. Those looking for a more flexible and affordable pathway to recovery may find that intensive outpatient treatment makes the best fit. Both forms of alcohol rehab provide access to the same evidence-based treatments.
  • MAT: Medications may be used to manage cravings and prevent relapse in those battling alcohol addiction. Naltrexone, acamprosate, and disulfiram are all effective, FDA-approved medications for alcohol use disorder. Medication-assisted treatment is typically delivered alongside behavioral therapies.
  • Behavioral therapies: CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), DBT (dialectical behavior therapy), and MI (motivational interviewing) are all effective therapy modalities for alcohol addiction.
  • Group therapy: Group therapy can be a powerful tool in the recovery process. In a group therapy setting, you can connect with others who have experienced similar struggles and receive support and encouragement from your peers.
  • Family therapy: Start repairing relationships damaged by the consequences of alcohol abuse by involving your loved ones in your recovery.
  • Ongoing support: Recovery from alcohol addiction is a lifelong process. Ongoing support like counseling and peer support groups can help you maintain your sobriety and prevent relapse.

Benefits of Rehab

Alcohol addiction is a complex and challenging condition that can have serious consequences for both physical and mental health. Seeking professional help through a rehab program can offer a number of benefits to individuals struggling with alcohol addiction, including:

  • Medical detoxification: Alcohol detox can be dangerous and potentially life-threatening without medical supervision. In a rehab program, you can receive 24/7 medical monitoring and support during the detox process to ensure your safety.
  • Personalized treatment plans: Everyone has a unique journey to recovery. Rehab programs offer personalized treatment plans that address the specific needs and challenges of each individual.
  • Comprehensive and science-backed therapy: Rehab programs typically offer a range of therapies, including individual therapy, group therapy, family therapy, and behavioral therapies. These therapies help individuals understand the root causes of their addiction and develop coping skills to maintain sobriety.
  • Access to medications: Benefit from medications approved by the FDA which can streamline the withdrawal process and promote ongoing abstinence from alcohol.
  • Peer support: Rehab programs offer a supportive community of peers who are also on the journey to recovery. This sober support network can provide encouragement, accountability, and a sense of belonging.
  • Relapse prevention: Learning strategies to prevent relapse is an important part of rehab. Rehab programs provide individuals with tools and skills to manage triggers and cravings to avoid relapse.
  • Aftercare support: The best rehab programs will provide robust aftercare support, which includes ongoing counseling, access to support groups, alumni programs, and other resources to help individuals maintain their sobriety after discharge from rehab.
  • Improved physical and mental health: Alcohol addiction can have serious consequences for physical and mental health. A rehab program will help you improve your overall health and well-being through exercise, nutrition, and therapy.

Rehab can be a life-changing experience for individuals struggling with alcohol addiction. If you or someone you love is struggling with alcohol addiction, seeking professional help through a rehab program can offer hope and a path to recovery. Before we show you how to achieve this in Southern California, how can you avoid complications during alcohol withdrawal?

How to Safely Withdraw from Alcohol

To reduce the intensity of the most common symptoms of alcohol withdrawal and prevent life-threatening symptoms of delirium tremens – severe alcohol withdrawal – you should detox at a licensed medical detox center or alcohol rehab.

Here are the steps involved to safely withdraw from alcohol in a supervised medical detox program:

  • Medical assessment: Before beginning the detox process, you will undergo a medical assessment to determine the severity of your addiction and identify any underlying health conditions that may require special attention during detox.
  • Medications: The treatment team may administer medications to manage the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal like anxiety, insomnia, and seizures.
  • 24/7 medical supervision: Detoxification from alcohol can be a dangerous and potentially life-threatening process. In a supervised medical detox program, you will benefit from 24/7 medical supervision to ensure your safety during the detox process.
  • Nutritional support: Alcohol addiction can deplete the body of essential nutrients. Detoxing at an alcohol rehab allows you to receive nutritional support, including a balanced diet and vitamin supplements, to enhance the recovery process.

After a week or so, you will be ready to move from detox into ongoing alcohol addiction treatment. 

an image of Laguna beach, where California Detox is located and where treatment is available for alcohol addiction

Get Help for an Alcohol Addiction at California Detox

If you have been struggling with any form of alcohol abuse, we can help you kickstart your recovery at California Detox in Southern California.

Engage with our supervised medical detox program for alcohol use disorder and streamline the withdrawal process while tackling the issue of physical dependence on alcohol. After a week, you can transition into ongoing treatment. We offer treatment programs at all levels of intensity, including residential rehab at our luxury alcohol addiction treatment facility in Laguna Beach, CA.

All alcohol addiction treatment programs at California Detox combine science-backed and holistic therapies that may include:

  • Psychotherapy (CBT and DBT)
  • MAT (medication-assisted treatment)
  • Individual counseling
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Holistic therapies
  • Aftercare

Call 949.694.8305 to access a supervised medical detox for alcohol followed by evidence-based treatment in Southern California.


Alcohol addiction is a complex condition that can develop over time as a result of various factors such as genetics, environment, and lifestyle. The speed at which a person can become an alcoholic can vary widely depending on these factors. Some individuals may develop an addiction to alcohol relatively quickly, while others may drink heavily for years before developing a problem or a diagnosable addiction.
There is no specific amount of alcohol that will cause someone to become an alcoholic. Alcoholism, clinically described as alcohol use disorder, is a chronic brain disorder that develops over time as a result of various factors such as genetics, environment, and lifestyle. Not everyone who drinks heavily will develop alcohol addiction, and not everyone who develops alcohol addiction drinks heavily.


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