Alcohol is a staple in American society. You can find alcohol at almost every event, from milestone celebrations with friends and family to work parties and company dinners. It’s as easy as typing in “alcohol rehab near me” on Google to find hundreds, if not thousands, of places where they sell alcohol. While occasional alcohol consumption is not something to be concerned about, it is easy to transition into the problem drinking area.

According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, “60.0 million people ages 12 and older (21.5% in this age group) reported binge drinking in the past month.”[1] This means about a quarter of people aged 12 or older in America misuse alcohol, making them more susceptible to developing an alcohol use disorder.

One of the signs of alcohol dependency is developing a tolerance. Being aware of what alcohol tolerance is and how long it takes to develop can help you determine whether you need support for alcohol abuse.

What is Alcohol Tolerance?

Tolerance occurs when your body becomes less sensitive to the effects of alcohol, therefore requiring more alcohol to experience an effect. For example, someone developing a tolerance to alcohol might have previously become intoxicated after 3 glasses of wine, but now needs 4 or 5 to feel the effects. While tolerance means you do not feel the effects of intoxication, you are still equally as drunk as you used to be.[2]

Having a tolerance to alcohol just means that your body is suppressing the response to the substance. Even though you feel less drunk, you are still being affected by the alcohol you drink.

Tolerance is one of the first signs of alcohol use disorder. When you develop a tolerance to alcohol, you are one step closer to becoming physically dependent on alcohol. Once you are dependent, you will experience symptoms of withdrawal if you abruptly stop consuming alcohol, indicating an alcohol use disorder.

Factors that Affect Alcohol Tolerance

While alcohol tolerance is affected by how much and how often you drink, there are a few other factors to consider. For example, you might have a natural tolerance to it due to factors like your metabolism or physical health.

Some of the factors that affect tolerance include:

  • Genetics
  • Gender
  • Age
  • Frequency of drinking
  • Amount of alcohol consumption at once
  • Overall physical health
  • How much food you have eaten
  • Medications you might take
  • Your family’s history of alcohol abuse

According to Stanford Medicine, even factors like what you are mixing your alcohol with can affect your tolerance level. Their article states, “The carbon dioxide in champagne or the soda in a mixed drink increases the rate of alcohol absorption, causing a more rapid effect.”[3]

When Does Tolerance for Alcohol Form?

Building a tolerance requires your body to get used to the level of alcohol inside of it, so you will only build a tolerance if you are drinking frequently.

According to the National Institutes of Health, “Tolerance means that after continued drinking, consumption of a constant amount of alcohol produces a lesser effect or increasing amounts of alcohol are necessary to produce the same effect.”[4]

There is no set amount of time that it takes to develop a tolerance to alcohol. How quickly you form a tolerance depends on a variety of personal factors as well as the frequency at which you drink.

If you only drink periodically, you might not develop a tolerance. However, people who drink large amounts a few times a week or every day can develop a tolerance to the substance rather quickly.

How Long Does it Take Alcohol Tolerance to Develop

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The Dangers of a High Alcohol Tolerance

While many people boast about having a high tolerance, it’s actually extremely dangerous. First, having a tolerance means you do not notice the effects of intoxication like you would in the past. This puts you at risk of engaging in behaviors that are dangerous while drunk, such as driving.

Another danger you should consider is the likelihood of drinking in large amounts. People with a high tolerance might frequently binge drink, which can lead to alcohol poisoning. Alcohol poisoning is the same thing as an overdose and could become life-threatening.

The symptoms of alcohol poisoning include:[5]

  • Mental confusion
  • Inability to remain conscious
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Slowed or irregular breathing
  • Decreased heart rate
  • Cold and clammy skin
  • Dulled responses
  • Paleness or bluish-colored skin

Even further, having a high tolerance means you are accustomed to drinking heavily, and when you frequently binge drink, your risk of developing liver-related issues goes up. After a while, you could develop alcoholic fatty liver disease, acute alcoholic hepatitis, or alcoholic cirrhosis.[6]

How to Lower Your Tolerance for Alcohol

While having an alcohol tolerance does not necessarily mean you suffer from alcoholism, you are at an increased risk. Tolerance is one of the first signs of alcohol addiction, which means it’s important to learn how to overcome it.

The only way to lower your tolerance for alcohol is to break the cycle of drinking. You have to stop consuming alcohol if you want to lower your tolerance. It is important to be brutally honest with yourself before you attempt this, as abruptly quitting alcohol consumption without medical support can be extremely dangerous if you suffer from alcoholism.

If you believe that you suffer from alcohol dependence as well and will experience withdrawal symptoms after stopping your alcohol intake, you should seek help from a medical detox program. You should also consider attending a continuum of care that includes medical detox and inpatient or outpatient addiction treatment to guarantee continued sobriety.

Get Help Now

Get Help for Alcohol Abuse and Addiction Today

If you or a loved one suffer from a pattern of problematic drinking, you could be dealing with an alcohol use disorder. Alcoholism must be treated by a professional substance abuse recovery program, as this condition often leads to relapse without supportive and preventative care. The Woburn Wellness comprehensive and highly individualized alcohol treatment center in MA is unlike any other alcohol rehab program in the area. We incorporate 12-step immersion, the careful development of a personalized treatment plan and an effective combination of therapeutic and holistic treatment methodologies. The treatment completion rate at Woburn Wellness Addiction Treatment is above the national average, further confirming that our experienced and compassionate staff members have the knowledge and experience necessary to provide the most comprehensive, psychoeducational alcohol addiction treatment available. If you or your loved one is ready to begin his or her personal journey of long-term healing, reach out to Woburn Wellness today for more information.

References:

  1. https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohols-effects-health/alcohol-topics/alcohol-facts-and-statistics/alcohol-use-united-states
  2. https://www.utoledo.edu/studentaffairs/counseling/selfhelp/substanceuse/tolerance.html
  3. https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=understanding-alcohols-effects-1-2860
  4. https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/aa28.htm
  5. https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/understanding-dangers-of-alcohol-overdose
  6. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/alcohol-related-liver-disease-arld/causes/
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