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How Long It Takes to Get Addicted to Alcohol

Alcoholism: How Long it Takes for Your Teen to Get Addicted

Do you suspect your teen is drinking? Maybe you smelled alcohol on his breath once or twice or you’ve noticed extreme changes in his behavior that seem more serious than just “normal teenage stuff”. Or maybe you’ve flat out caught him drinking.

Either way, there’s a single question that now haunts you day and night: “Is my teen an alcoholic?

The answer to this question heavily depends on how much and how often your teen has been drinking, as well as a slew of other factors. Let’s take a look at how great of an impact alcohol can have on an adolescent and how long it takes to actually become an alcoholic.

How Drinking Affects an Adolescent’s Development

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, “low-risk” drinking for women is considered three or fewer drinks per day or seven drinks per week. For men, the guideline is four or fewer drinks per day or 14 drinks per week.

However, some research suggests no amount of drinking is safe, and that’s especially true for adolescents whose bodies and brains are still developing and maturing.

As of 2017, almost 2.3 million U.S. citizens between the ages of 12 and 17 reported drinking alcohol every month. And in 2016, 1.2 million U.S. teens within the same age group reported binge drinking within the last month.

Underage drinking is considered a public health problem across the country because of the serious impacts it can have on adolescents – from damaging memory, coordination and motor skills to leading to increased car crashes, sexual assaults and physical fights.

Why Is My Teen Drinking?

From a biological standpoint, it has to do with how an adolescent’s brain develops. The pleasure center of the brain develops more quickly than the decision-making part of the brain, so adolescents are less able to control their impulses and understand the consequences of their actions.

Now, just because adolescents are more vulnerable to drinking, doesn’t necessarily mean they will. There are other reasons and factors that could have led your teen to drink, including:

  • Peer pressure from social groups
  • Encouragement from the media and advertisers
  • As a way to cope with stress or anxiety
  • As a way to escape from the pain caused by abuse or trauma

How Long Does it Take to Actually Become an Alcoholic?

Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to help you determine if your teen is an alcoholic or not. For some, their first drink sends them down a road of binge drinking and addiction. For others, they may take their first sip at 12 and pass through life as nothing more than a social drinker.

That all being said, if you suspect your teen is drinking, chances are he probably is. And if he is, that increases his risk of doing permanent damage to his body and brain and suffering from addiction for the rest of his life.

If your teen is having behavioral issues at home and school, falling behind in class, hanging out with crowds of kids you don’t know or showing physical symptoms like slurred speech or lack of coordination, it’s time to talk to your teen and seek treatment that can help him overcome his alcohol abuse.

Alcohol Addiction Treatment at Kokua Recovery

If your teen is struggling with alcohol, there is hope. At Kokua Recovery, we provide alcohol addiction treatment that provides a dual diagnosis approach and 42 hours a week of experiential therapy to get to the bottom of what led to your child’s alcohol abuse in the first place. Our mission is to help bring back the happy and healthy teen you’ve been missing and restore your family.

Contact us today to learn more about our program and find out how to get your teen started.

Ken Huey

Upon graduating from Purdue with a Ph.D. in Marriage and Family Therapy, Dr. Huey worked as a therapist, Clinical Director, and Business Development Director in residential treatment. Dr. Huey was always drawn to the large population of adoptees in residential treatment (he is adopted himself). He ultimately became convinced that this population needed specialty care and in November of 2006, Dr. Huey founded Calo. Calo grew to a 200 plus employee organization with about the same numbers of teen clients served each year. He sold Calo and retired in June of 2015. He came out of retirement in 2017 and founded Kokua Recovery, trauma-informed residential drug and alcohol treatment with sites in Colorado.

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