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How Do People Go From One Drink To Alcoholism?

How Do People Go From One Drink To Alcoholism?
Written by Seth Fletcher on September 6, 2016
Last update: February 26, 2024

How do people get really addicted to alcohol?

When you think of alcoholism, you probably imagine someone in their 40s or 50s who drinks all day, lazes around and doesn't have a job. In reality, alcoholics range from all ages and many of them have successful careers, families and social lives.
There is no poster child for alcohol addiction.While most people with alcohol addictions do the same actions, they all perform them in different ways, under different circumstances and for many different reasons.This is why it's nearly impossible to "cure" an alcoholic with a generic program; every addict drinks for their own reason.But how does someone become an alcoholic? How long does it take to develop an addiction? The answer is: it depends. But this post will address the several most common ways that people become addicted to drinking.

Genetics (Maybe family members liked Alcohol?)

You don't just inherit your parents' eyes and grandfather's nose; genetics can also increase your risk of developing mental disorders like schizophrenia, clinical depression and alcoholism.Of course, genetics are only a single stroke, not the big picture. People who have alcoholic genes aren't destined to become alcoholics.Instead, their emotions, upbringing, environment and more will contribute to whether or not they become addicts.

Binge Drinking (Drinking non-stop)

Many people binge drink in high school and college for prolonged periods and stop without any long-term negative consequences. However, for someone who is already suffering from emotions linked to depression, insecurity or anxiety, binge drinking can become their new normal.Hangovers and blackouts usually don't bother people who become alcoholics through binge drinking. Instead, the relaxed, calm feeling they have from drinking is their motivation and anything else is just a side-effect.Many people who binge drink may eventually stop drinking so heavily at a time only to continually consume alcohol on a daily basis. Blackouts are swapped for hangovers, and eventually, hangovers don't come because they're always drinking.

Trauma (Physical, Emotional, Childhood)

Some people turn to alcohol as a coping mechanism after they experience some type of psychological or physical trauma in their lives. When someone uses alcohol to cope with their emotions, they're playing a dangerous game.The new, happier feelings that replace the ones they're trying to escape fade faster over time, requiring them to drink more and more just to feel the same.You should always seek help through friends, family and/or a licensed mental health specialist after you undergo a trauma in your life.Trying to deal with all your pain, anger, frustration and confusion on your own can lead you down some very dark alleys.

How Long Before You're A Full-Blown Alcoholic?

A person must exhibit at least four of the symptoms found in the Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) within the past year to be "officially" diagnosed.However, it really depends on your tolerance level. Some people may only have a few bottles of beer and develop cravings, while others may binge drink every weekend for a year and not be deeply effected.Alcoholism is a wild card; this is why drinking responsibly — or abstaining altogether — is so important. No one intends to become an addict; people are telling the truth when they say, "It just happened."If you or a loved one suffer from alcoholism, it might be time to consider rehab. You can contact one in your area for information on alcohol addiction treatment programs, financing options and more.You can also research treatment options on your own to try at home but remember to do so with extreme caution. Alcohol withdrawal is dangerous, so recovery is best done under the guidance of a professional.
Certified Addiction Counsellor

Seth brings many years of professional experience working the front lines of addiction in both the government and privatized sectors.

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