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Alcohol is a psychoactive, central nervous system depressant that works by slowing down vital functions in one’s body. Harvard Health explains that “alcohol directly influences the stomach, brain, heart, gallbladder, and liver. It affects levels of lipids (cholesterol and triglycerides) and insulin in the blood, as well as inflammation and coagulation. It also alters mood, concentration, and coordination.” When an individual drinks alcohol, it enters his or her bloodstream immediately and reaches the brain within five minutes of consumption.

A person that is addicted to alcohol is colloquially known as an alcoholic. Alcohol addiction, also known as alcoholism or alcohol use disorder (AUD), is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) as a chronic brain disorder. According to the Mayo Clinic alcoholism is characterized by a “pattern of alcohol use that involves problems controlling your drinking, being preoccupied with alcohol, continuing to use alcohol even when it causes problems, having to drink more to get the same effect, or having withdrawal symptoms when you rapidly decrease or stop drinking.” Alcohol use disorder is a complex disease involving physical and psychological changes that occur with consistent alcohol use. Still, the precise cause of alcoholism remains unknown. There are, however, several risk factors that have been reported as potentially playing a role in increasing one’s susceptibility to alcoholism, some of which include:

  • Biological factors: research has found a close link between genetics/ physiology and alcoholism. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry assert that children of alcoholics are four times more likely than other children to become alcoholics themselves.
  • Environmental factors: people exposed to heavy alcohol consumption at a young age may be more likely to develop alcohol use disorder than those who are not. Research has found that those who begin drinking in the early to mid-teen years are more likely to develop problems with alcohol.
  • Social factors: social situations where alcohol consumption is encouraged and/ or widely acceptable essentially provides an individual with permission to engage in unhealthy drinking. Further, factors such as the availability of alcohol, peer pressure, social class, and any kind of abuse can play a role in the development of alcohol addiction.
  • Psychological factors: individuals who suffer from other mental health conditions are more likely to abuse alcohol, and certain mental health disorders are common among people with an alcohol use disorder. Studies have also found that stress is closely linked with increased alcohol consumption, and increased alcohol consumption is closely linked to developing alcohol use disorder. 

Although it would be helpful to understand the exact length of time it takes to become addicted to alcohol, unfortunately there is no set timeline for developing alcohol use disorder. 

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Substance abuse and addiction can be incredibly dangerous and can result in severe short and long-term consequences. If you or someone you know is suffering from substance abuse or addiction, please get help as soon as possible. The earlier you seek support, the sooner you and your loved ones can return to leading happy, healthy, and fulfilling lives. There is no reason to go through this alone, and we are here to help. Please feel free to reach out to us for further information or with any questions regarding substance abuse or addiction. We are available anytime via telephone at: 213-389-9964, or you can always email us at: info@friendlyhousela.org.