This article has been medically reviewed by Dr Robert Lefever, a world-leading addictions specialist.
It can be very frustrating for a loved one to go through a struggling journey of recovering from alcohol dependence but still suffer from unhealthy habits when they were alcoholics. During this period, an individual is likely to relapse to alcohol as an escape route to frustrations. At this point, you should provide support and counselling to recovering alcoholics by supporting and helping them remain focused on their path of full recovery.
A recovering alcoholic who is still struggling with past unhealthy habits may suffer from the dry drunk syndrome. Individuals experiencing dry drunk syndrome can get help. If you are going through this struggle or have a loved one with a dry drunk syndrome problem, we can help you. Please feel free to call us at 0203 955 7700, and an experienced advisor is available to speak to and provide help.
What is a dry drunk syndrome?
The dry drunk is a term used to describe someone who has recovered from alcoholism but still exhibiting traits and behaviour that alcoholics characterise. At this point, an individual is not using alcohol, but they are still portraying dysfunctional characteristics. For example, a person may stumble as they walk or experience a slurred speech.
Persons with dry drunk syndrome seems sober, but they are emotionally and psychologically unstable. In this case, a dry drunk person has not yet dealt with the underlying issues that caused them to indulge in alcoholism in the first place.
Additionally, an individual may suffer from dry drunk syndrome when alcohol withdrawal syndrome prolongs for a long time.
What are the causes of dry drunk syndrome?
Abstaining from alcohol or quitting the consumption may not signify alcohol recovery. You may have stopped taking alcohol, but your mind and body still reacts like an alcoholic. As you stop drinking alcohol, you should change your mindset to help you start your recovery journey effectively.
With a mindset still stuck to alcohol, you will experience the immense struggle that might lead you to relapse. For full alcohol recovery, you must first address the underlying factors that made you an alcoholic in the first place. As you address the underlying factors, you may need to change your lifestyle and the company of people around you.
Other than underlying factors, you may suffer the dry drunk syndrome due to extended withdrawal symptoms, otherwise known as protracted withdrawal symptoms.
What are underlying psychological issues?
Some of the reasons that lead to alcoholism are emotional or psychological issues. Psychological issues such as anxiety and depression lead many people to alcoholism as they find a way to relieve themselves. The temporary high feeling effect that alcohol produces is very appealing to people with psychological issues. The trouble begins when alcoholism becomes an uncontrollable habit.
Other underlying issues include the loss of a loved one, financial problems, and career frustration. In the mentioned cases, alcoholism is always an easy escape route. However, the long-term consequences are painful.
In the period of a dry drunk syndrome, you may find it difficult to recover if the underlying issues are not addressed. If the underlying issues led you to alcoholism, chances are high you will relapse if they still exist.
What are protracted alcohol withdrawal symptoms?
Protracted withdrawal symptoms occur when alcohol withdrawal symptoms in an individual last longer than normal. For example, people who struggle with alcohol dependence will experience withdrawal symptoms if they stop taking alcohol.
After you take larger doses of alcohol for a long time, the functioning of your brain and body are altered to adapt to the effects of the use of alcohol. Therefore, when you are attempting to quit alcohol suddenly, your body reacts by producing withdrawal symptoms.
Typically, withdrawal symptoms last not more than two weeks. However, people recovering from alcoholism may experience withdrawal symptoms for longer than two weeks in some cases. Protracted alcohol withdrawal symptoms are extended withdrawal symptoms in a person.
Signs of Dry Drunk Syndrome
The signs of a dry drunk are hard to point but are similar to the symptoms of late alcohol withdrawal. They include:
- A person secluding
- Impatience and restlessness
- Irritability and frustrations
- Depression and anxiety
- Anger and negative attitude
- The person speaks highly of their old drinking experiences
- Turning to new addictions such as video games and internet use
- Being dishonest about drinking habits and actions
- Keeping the company of alcoholics
When individuals show increased signs of the dry drunk syndrome, they may be on the verge of relapsing to alcohol. At this stage, you should offer them the necessary support and encouragement. Importantly, individuals with dry drunk symptoms ought to be taken through adequate counselling.
For dry drunks, alcohol is not the main problem but their mindset and behaviours. Like people in active alcohol dependence, dry drunks experience common effects, the only difference being dry drunks no longer take alcohol.
Does the dry drunk syndrome happen to all recovering alcoholics?
After the process of quitting alcohol, recovery varies from one person to the other. For example, people who enroll to support programs such as counselling are likely not to experience the dry drunk syndrome. Therefore, the dry drunk syndrome may not happen to everyone.
After quitting alcohol, the support system around you will highly determine your success in recovery. Being the number one support system, family members have an essential role in assisting the recovering people in overcoming relapse.
As much as those surrounding you are important in recovery, the main effort must come from you. First, you will have to address the underlying causes that got you into alcohol addiction. If not addressed, the underlying causes that led you to alcoholism, such as career frustrations, will still be a source of a dry drunk.
Must those with dry drunk syndrome relapse to alcohol?
The drunk dry syndrome is a major indication of an individual returning to alcohol. However, it is not always the case. In as much as it is true that the majority of those who relapse to alcohol do so at the dry drunk syndrome, it is also true that some people can overcome dry drunk syndrome and fully recover.
It is worth noting that relapse is part of the recovery journey. Therefore, it is perfectly normal to relapse; what is critical after relapsing is an individual’s determination, willpower, and commitment to try again to overcome alcoholism.
How can you overcome the dry drunk syndrome?
In overcoming dry drunk syndrome, the individual suffering has to play a critical role. Therefore, it would be best if you changed the mindset that you are no longer an alcoholic. It is through mindset change that you will employ determination and focus on overcoming the situation.
As much as an individual plays a critical role, you cannot do it all by yourself. Instead, you will need to connect with other people and share your struggles. A problem shared is a problem half-solved.
Talking to your family members and people around you will make it easier for you to be accorded the necessary support by people who understand you. In addition, when you are experiencing mood changes, those around you will handle you to avoid escalating the situation.
Joining a peer group is an essential step towards overcoming dry drunk syndrome. In peer groups, you are likely to meet some people in your position and others who experienced dry drunk symptoms and recovered. When you hear different experiences from different people, you will be encouraged to soldier on to recovery.
What lifestyle changes can I make to recover from the dry drunk syndrome?
Dropping and adopting some lifestyles can help you to increase the chances of overcoming dry drunk syndrome. Below are lifestyle changes that can assist you:
Engaging in physical activities such as jogging, joining the local football team, and attending gym sessions will distract your mind from the dry drunk syndrome. With physical activities, you will kill boredom as well as depressive thoughts. Medically, physical activity keeps us healthy from conditions such as obesity.
Eating nutritious food and being rich in a balanced diet is beneficial in a human’s body in many ways. Through proper nutrition, your body will be adequately nourished to metabolise and function well. Further, adequate nutrition consists of drinking a plentiful amount of water that keeps your body well hydrated.
With adequate sleeping, you are likely to have a productive day. Conversely, insufficient sleep causes an individual to struggle to work during the day.
Avoid spending a lot of time indoors.
Spending time outdoors will assist you by having your mind distracted from depressing thoughts. Further, you have chances of socialising outdoors and sharing your struggles.
How does dry drunk syndrome affect other people?
Everyone desires to have a loved one who is an alcoholic to stop. Having a desire to quit alcohol is easy for an individual, but the journey to recover from alcoholism is an uphill task. Alcohol is a depressant that is addictive and has hooked millions of people worldwide into a problematic habit to abandon.
Unlike an active addict, a dry drunk individual is a step away from attaining freedom from alcohol. In this stage of recovery, a dry drunk has a high likelihood of relapsing. Therefore, those with dry drunk syndrome require a lot of support from those around them. In as much dry drunk syndrome is a recovery process, those suffering from it may exhibit undesirable behaviours that would make their interaction with other people strenuous.
Being easily irritated and aggressive, dry drunks are likely to enter into confrontation with people around them. For instance, if one spouse is experiencing dry drunk syndrome, they might constantly argue over minor things. Still, a dry drunk parent might end up over punishing the children for minor mistakes.
Being habitual liars, dry drunks can make a relationship with those around them strenuous. Nobody loves being deceived, and when dry drunks are likely to be dishonest.
By secluding themselves, dry drunks leave those around them frustrated as they wonder how to interact with them.
Dry drunks are not likely to be productive and hence may abandon work. By leaving a job, they become dependent on other people for food, clothes, and shelter. Taking care of an adult who is not working is an activity that many people resent.
Having to live with people having dry drunk syndrome is not an easy interaction. But suppose we support them to overcome the situation and ultimately recover from alcohol. In that case, we will have made a difference in society. Many people would agree a dry drunk syndrome is better than an active alcoholic addiction.
How can you support a person with dry drunk syndrome?
If you have a loved one recovering from a dry drunk syndrome, you may find it frustrating. However, there are some ways you can show support; they are as follows:
Comforting those with dry drunk syndrome by telling them they can do it may look casual, but it goes a long way in encouraging drunk dry to keep trying.
Support positive habits
Supporting them by joining them in helpful activities such as sports and going to fitness centres together will distract them from unhelpful thoughts.
Being patient with them
You need to understand that being patient with dry drunks as they try to recover helps a lot. Treat them with love; they experience negative thoughts and mood swings.
How can dry drunk syndrome lead to relapse?
People with dry drunk syndrome are sober but exhibit behaviours of alcoholics. Looking at their attitudes and behaviours, you can see dry drunk syndrome may lead to relapse. If drunk dry people fail to get proper support, they may find themselves in their old habit of drinking alcohol.
If you live with a person going through dry drunk syndrome, it will help to pay keen attention if you notice trends that can lead to relapse. Such trends include an individual keeping company with alcoholics and always praising their old drinking days.
You will agree that the best thing that can happen to you is when a loved one comes out of alcohol dependence and fully recovers. In this case, you have to be patient and supportive to people going through dry drunk syndrome. It is never easy interacting with dry drunks, but it is a necessary recovery journey for some people. However, the drunk dry syndrome is a situation you can overcome and finally recover fully from alcohol addiction.
Living with a dry drunk syndrome can be very difficult. However, it is part of the recovery journey to recovery from alcohol. Therefore, supporting people with dry drunk syndrome can help them to recover fully. Please call us at 0203 955 7700, and an experienced advisor is available to speak to and provide help.
- The Dry Drunk Syndrome: A Toximolecular Interpretation
- [PDF] The Dry Drunk Syndrome: A Toximolecular Interpretation
- What Is Dry Drunk Syndrome? What Causes It and How To Overcome It
- The Continuum of Addiction and the Addictive Personality
- Is There A “Dry Drunk” in Your Life?
- Dry drunk – Wikipedia
The dry drunk syndrome occurs when someone has recovered from alcoholism but continues to exhibit the attitude and behaviours of an alcoholic. In addition, a dry drunk may harbour cravings for alcohol. Therefore, the dry drunk syndrome may lead to relapse if not well treated.