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How Long to Become an Alcoholic?

  • anonymous Asks ...

    How many years of drinking does it take for a person to become an alcoholic? My brother has only been drinking for less than a year and I know this is true since I got him drunk for the first time on his 18th birthday 11 months ago. He has been depressed for a long time and I thought a crazy night out might help. But since then he has been drinking a lot and sometimes I have come home and found him drinking by himself alone watching TV. I am worried about him but it seems like you can't become an alcoholic this fast so I am not sure what I am worried about.

  • Melissa Borlie Says ...
    Melissa Borlie

    There is no required amount of time before a person becomes an alcoholic. Crossing over from normal drinker to alcoholic is more dependent on heredity, personality, support for the drinking, and the environment in which a person grew up. These factors differ from person to person and even among siblings. There is much research into why 10% of the population abuse substances and the other 90% do not, but there are no definitive answers.

    Alcoholics Anonymous sites two requirements to diagnose oneself as an alcoholic. The first is when you drink, you cannot predict the outcome. Example: You say you'll have two and then have twenty-two or you say you'll only have a couple and wake up in jail. The second is that you cannot stop drinking when you really want to stop.

    I am concerned about your brother's long-term depression for two reasons. One is that people often drink out of boredom and/or depression because they feel they have nothing better to do or nothing to really live for. Since no one can determine how much drinking it requires to become an alcoholic, some people cross the line and find they cannot quit when they do have something better to do. The second is that when depressed people drink a depressant, they get more depressed. Some people can get so depressed that they become suicidal with disastrous results. It might be better to approach your brother about getting some help (in-person therapy) for the depression, rather than addressing his alcohol use at this time. If the depression is allieviated, the alcohol use may diminish as well. Good luck to both of you in your journey!

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