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What Is Dry Drunk Syndrome?

If you have quit drinking alcohol but still struggle with the same behavior patterns as during addiction, you’re not alone. Recovery is a process. HBO’s Addiction Project postulates that addicts only fully recover after four to five years of support after the initial sobriety period. For some addicts, especially those who opt out of follow-up treatment after becoming sober, the emotional and psychological issues that accompanied their addiction can remain.

What is a dry alcoholic? The terms “dry drunk syndrome” and “sober drunk” refer to the conditions that afflict individuals after the point where they no longer have a physical craving for alcohol. During these periods, recovering addicts may continue to behave as if they’re addicted. 

Dry Drunk Symptoms and Behavior Patterns

Dry drunk symptoms occur when an individual has physically given up alcohol but has not made any behavioral or emotional changes. These individuals may still carry around the emotional baggage or unhealthy thought patterns that contributed to their addiction in the first place. When you quit drinking, your brain must adjust to the impairment that alcohol caused. This adjustment period can last a couple of weeks or as long as several years. 

Dry drunk syndrome accompanies the phenomenon known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome or PAWS. Symptoms of PAWS include poor coordination and balance, delayed reflexes, mood swings, depression and dizziness. An individual battling PAWS symptoms may appear to others as if they’re intoxicated when, in fact, they are sober.

Dry drunk symptoms include:

  • Poor impulse control 
  • Increased anxiety and depression
  • Self-centered attitude 
  • Fear of relapse
  • Replacing the addiction with a new one, such as sex, gambling or Internet use
  • Reminiscing about drinking days
  • Isolation
  • Resentment about recovery
  • Anger toward loved ones
  • Jealousy of others not struggling with addiction
  • Complacency in the recovery process

How to Deal With a Dry Alcoholic

If someone you know is exhibiting the symptoms of dry drunk syndrome, encourage them to continue treatment. Dry drunk syndrome can sometimes make those in recovery feel like they failed, and these feelings may cause them to slow their treatment efforts or even quit altogether.

To help your loved one stay on track, redirect them toward healthier, more positive actions to combat their depressive tendencies. You can try introducing them to new experiences or old hobbies, such as:

  • Exercising
  • Meditating
  • Spending more time with friends and family 
  • Taking an art or cooking class
  • Auditing a class at a local college
  • Focusing on a creative project
  • Exploring treatment through rehab programs 

Getting Help for Dry Alcoholics

To cope with dry drunk syndrome, you can lean on others, find a support group and remain committed to recovery. At Gateway, we recognize the power in numbers, and that’s why we offer recovery support groups in addition to a variety of addiction therapy services. 

Since 1968, our goal has been to help individuals achieve a life of sobriety free from addiction. Our highly credentialed staff provide high-quality addiction treatment as well as nine medically researched evidence-based practices. Contact Gateway today to start your recovery journey.

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