How Long Does It Take Alcohol Dependence To Develop?
- About 1 in 7 adults who have had alcohol dependence, commonly known as alcoholism, developed it less than a year after having their first drink, according to a nationwide survey of U.S. adults aged 18 or older.
- About a quarter of people who have had alcohol dependence developed it less than 2 years after their first drink,
- about a third in less than 3 years, and
- about half in less than 5 years.
In the United States, most people have had their first drink by the time they leave high school. This fact, combined with the relatively rapid onset of dependence in many drinkers, helps to explain why alcohol dependence is found most commonly in young adults. About 1 in 9 people aged 18–24 have alcohol dependence, more than twice the proportion of any other age group.
The survey also shows that alcohol dependence occurs only rarely among drinkers who always stay within the following limits:
- for men, no more than 4 drinks on any single day and 14 per week;
- for women, no more than 3 drinks on any day and 7 per week.