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How Long Does It Take to Get Addicted to Alcohol?

How long it takes to get addicted to alcohol depends on you and your drinking habits. While some people can drink socially and never become addicted, others are unable to manage their alcohol consumption. As a result, they struggle to cut back or quit altogether when drinking causes problems in their life.

Alcohol addiction is one of the most common types of substance use disorders (SUD) in the US. If you or a loved one are struggling to quit, Buckhead Behavioral Health is here to help. We offer several outpatient alcohol rehab programs to help you in your recovery from addiction. But, it’s important to first understand the signs that you or a loved one are addicted to alcohol.

Am I Addicted to Alcohol?

If you are addicted to alcohol, you will notice some negative consequences of drinking. For instance, many people notice weight changes or start having problems in their relationships. But, the most significant tell of addiction is the inability to quit without professional help due to unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.

Addiction affects each person differently. However, if you are addicted to alcohol, some of the following signs and symptoms might apply to you:

  • Drinking more than you intend to on most occasions
  • Wanting to cut down on drinking or limit your consumption, but you can’t
  • Spending a lot of time drinking and recovering from alcohol use
  • Having cravings and urges for alcohol
  • Thinking about drinking throughout the day
  • Drinking gets in the way of other responsibilities, like work, school, or family
  • No longer participating in hobbies or activities that don’t involve alcohol
  • Needing more alcohol for the same effects (developing a tolerance)
  • Unable to quit despite negative health and social consequences
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you stop drinking

The presence of withdrawal symptoms when you stop drinking is the most telling sign that you are addicted and need professional help.

What Are Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms?

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms occur when you stop drinking alcohol if you’ve become addicted. These symptoms occur because your body and mind cannot function normally without alcohol. However, your body and mind can regain normal functioning if you quit and go through a detox program to help you safely manage withdrawal.

The following are common symptoms of alcohol withdrawal:

  • Anxiety and depression
  • Restlessness and irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Headache
  • Profuse sweating
  • Vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea

Symptoms can also turn dangerous and life-threatening for those with a severe addiction. These symptoms, called delirium tremens, include:

  • Seizures
  • Mental confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Agitation
  • Body tremors
  • Deep sleep for a day or more
  • Rapid mood swings

Delirium tremens (DTs) are dangerous. But you would need to have a severe alcohol addiction to experience DTs. Regardless of how long you have been drinking, if you can’t quit without having withdrawal symptoms, you need to find treatment options. Otherwise, you are at risk of relapsing to avoid withdrawal.

How Often Do You Need to Drink to Become Addicted to Alcohol?

If you drink on a regular basis, you could become addicted to alcohol. This doesn’t necessarily need to be every single day. You could still become addicted even if you only drink on the weekends when you binge alcohol or drink heavily.

Alcohol causes your brain to release feel-good chemicals, and you begin to associate drinking with happiness. Over time, you might struggle to feel good if you aren’t drinking. This can get more complicated if you have an underlying mental health disorder or if you drink to relieve stress.

Also called self-medicating, using alcohol to cope with stress, alter your mood, or drown out negative emotions is a maladaptive coping mechanism that frequently leads to addiction.

What Are the Consequences of Alcohol Addiction?

Alcohol addiction can lead to several negative consequences. Many people don’t get help until they experience life-altering adverse effects. Still, others don’t get help even if their life falls apart because of alcohol addiction.

The following are some of the most common negative consequences of alcohol addiction:

  • Liver and heart disease
  • Increased risk of certain cancers
  • Hypertension
  • Legal issues
  • Reckless behaviors under the influence
  • Problems with relationships
  • Poor work performance
  • Developing a mental health disorder

While many people don’t get treatment until they face severe consequences, you don’t have to wait for the worst to happen. If you are concerned about your drinking habits, it is best to get help right away. However, even if you have a serious alcohol use disorder, there is hope for recovery.

How is Alcohol Addiction Treated?

Alcohol addiction treatment involves a combination of different types of therapies to address addiction and its underlying causes. You will begin with a detox and work your way through various levels of care—gaining more independence as you build the skills needed to recover from addiction.

The following programs can help treat alcohol addiction:

  • Detox: This is the first step in any addiction treatment program. During alcohol detox, you get medical and psychological support to manage withdrawal symptoms safely.
  • Residential Treatment: After detox, you should spend time in residential treatment at an inpatient rehab center. That way, you can get treatment without being tempted to cave to relapse triggers in early recovery. Buckhead Behavioral Health can help connect you to a residential treatment program that will suit your needs in recovery.
  • Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP): Also called day treatment, a PHP program occurs for six days a week with several hours of programming each day. Since PHP is an outpatient program, you can live at home or in a sober living program.
  • Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP): An IOP program is similar to a PHP except you spend less time in treatment. This allows you to resume working, attending school, or taking care of your family while still getting a high level of outpatient care.

In addition, you will get a number of services throughout each level of care. Your programs will include things like individual therapy, group therapy, holistic approaches, and support for your family. For those with a severe alcohol addiction, medication-assisted treatment (MAT) can reduce the risk of relapsing in early recovery.

Get Help for Alcohol Addiction Today

Alcohol addiction is one of the most common substance use disorders in the US. Everyone is different in how they respond to alcohol and why they choose to drink in the first place. Factors like these affect how long it takes to get addicted to alcohol.

If you or a loved one are addicted to alcohol, you can make the first step toward recovery now. Contact Buckhead Behavioral Health today to get help for alcohol addiction.

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