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What is Dry Drunk Syndrome?

People with alcoholism can form several poor behavioral patterns while they abuse alcohol, and these can persist even after they get sober. This is known as dry drunk syndrome.

Dry drunk syndrome is a condition that can develop when someone stops drinking. It refers to a set of negative behaviors and attitudes. More specifically, a "dry drunk" may still act drunk while they are sober and going through recovery.

While dry drunk syndrome is most common in people with alcoholism who have only recently stopped drinking, it can also occur in people even if they had stopped drinking years ago. It doesn’t discriminate.

Because a loved one may be familiar with these negative behaviors already, it can be difficult to recognize when someone has developed dry drunk syndrome.

They may not seem to act any differently than the “normal” that their loved ones have gotten used to. For example, their moodiness or lack of motivation may just be expected.

Despite how quietly someone may be suffering from dry drunk syndrome, it can take a serious toll on their lives. 

Experiencing a dry drunk is a sign that relapse is potentially coming. But, even without a relapse, the symptoms of a dry drunk can affect someone’s personal and professional life, just like alcohol abuse can.

"Dry drunk" is a slang term that originated in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Many addiction experts do not use the term "dry drunk" because it can be offensive to those going through recovery. No one should be labeled as a drunk, especially those trying to get better.

Is Dry Drunk Syndrome a Sign of Relapse?

People can experience symptoms of dry drunk syndrome months to years after they stop drinking. This means that while they may still have urges to drink from time to time, they are not physically relapsing.

It's also important to keep in mind that relapsing is a normal part of recovery. If you or someone you know relapses after becoming sober, don't give up on treatment.


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Causes of Dry Drunk Syndrome

Dry drunk syndrome can develop in people who are recovering or have recovered from alcohol use disorder (AUD). These people tend to exhibit the same negative behaviors and attitudes they formed while coping with alcohol addiction.

Alcohol affects the brain, which can severely impact someone’s physical, mental, and emotional health for long after they stop drinking it.

This is why, even after someone sobers up, the behavioral and mental side effects of alcoholism can still affect them.

Symptoms of Dry Drunk Syndrome 

Some symptoms of dry drunk syndrome in a recovering alcoholic include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Self-pity and feeling “woe is me”
  • Acting self-important and “having all the answers”
  • Believing that sobriety is or will be boring and unfulfilling
  • Feeling frustrated about being unable to participate in drinking events
  • Expressing anger or resentment toward loved ones who persuaded them to quit drinking
  • Experiencing jealousy toward recovering alcoholics who seem to have had seamless recoveries
  • Impatience
  • Impulsivity and spontaneity
  • Blaming others for one’s own fault
  • Refusing to accept constructive criticism from loved ones and care professionals
  • Refusing to accept advice from loved ones and care professionals
  • Dishonesty
  • Selfishness
  • Indecision
  • Mood swings
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty expressing emotions
  • Boredom
  • Being easily distracted
  • Disconnecting from loved ones
  • Disconnecting from personal interests
  • Feeling uninspired to pursue previous passions
  • Disorganization
  • Lack of motivation
  • Extreme desire to drink
  • Missing or reminiscing about past drinking days
  • Daydreaming or fantasizing
  • Letting personal obligations and the needs of family members fall to the wayside
  • Disinterest in certain aspects of life
  • Backing away from any substance abuse treatment program (like alcoholics anonymous)
  • Refusal to seek treatment for alcohol abuse, insisting that they’re completely recovered
  • Feeling unsatisfied
  • Feeling detached
  • Feeling self-absorbed

The signs of dry drunk syndrome may not always be obvious because the person may have already been exhibiting these signs for years while using alcohol. The first step to recovering from the fallout of alcohol use is recognizing these dry drunk behaviors. If you or a loved one are experiencing any of these symptoms, professional help is available.


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How Long Does Dry Drunk Syndrome Last?

The recovery process from alcoholism can be a difficult one. All addiction recovery takes time and effort — sometimes more time and more effort than other times.

But while recovery programs can help someone get back on the right track, there are side effects of quitting substance abuse that can last quite some time. And those side effects may require additional aftercare help to overcome.

Dry drunk syndrome, for example, lasts as long as someone does not get treatment or seek support groups to develop the coping skills they need.

While a detox plan or rehabilitation program may help them leave their drinking days in the past and get over their dependency on alcohol, alcohol use disorder (AUD) can leave a lasting impact on their lives.

And they may need more coping mechanisms to handle dry drunk syndrome.

Tips for Coping with Dry Drunk Syndrome

Dry drunk syndrome is very common, and you are not alone. Many recovering alcoholics deal with this condition on a daily basis, and it is nothing to be ashamed of.

There are also some lifestyle changes you can make to better cope with this condition, including:

Take Care Of Yourself

Taking care of your health and well-being can dramatically decrease alcohol urges. It also boosts your mental health, gives you more energy, and improves your overall mindset.

To help reduce the symptoms of dry drunk syndrome, try making the following lifestyle changes:

  • Exercise every day (this can mean light walking or more vigorous exercise)
  • Practice self-care (meditation, massages, therapy, yoga, stretching, etc.)
  • Eat a balanced diet full of whole foods
  • Spend time with loved ones and try not to isolate yourself
  • Get enough sleep and try to get into a regular sleeping routine
  • Go for walks outside and enjoy nature
  • Develop new hobbies as coping methods (drawing, painting, music, journaling, home projects, gardening, etc.)

Commit To Change

When you find yourself falling off track, it's important to remember why you stopped drinking. Reach out for support if you are having trouble keeping this vision.

Go Easy On Yourself

Addiction is a serious disease, and being hard on yourself will only make things worse. Learning self-compassion is essential in recovery because it allows you to go easy on yourself.

When you find yourself falling back into old thought patterns, remember that it is just a part of the process. Forgive yourself and be proud of how far you have come.

Reach Out For Support

When things get especially difficult, it's always important to remind yourself that you are not alone. Reach out to loved ones or alcohol support groups (like AA) if you are feeling isolated.

Treatment Options for Dry Drunk Syndrome

Fortunately, there are behavioral health services, peer support groups, and rehabilitation treatment centers available for anyone experiencing dry drunk syndrome.

Some treatment options include:

  • Traditional therapy — Working with a therapist can help you to unpack the triggers that cause you to behave or think in a certain way. Therefore, therapy can help you stop drinking and stop wanting to drink or act in the same ways you did when drinking.
  • Peer support groups — Having a support system to go through alcohol abuse recovery can make a world of difference. Peer support groups help to hold people recovering from alcoholism accountable because just showing up in the first place is a step in the right direction. When people are going through the same thing, such as overcoming substance use, it can help to face it together with others who can empathize, share inspirational success stories, offer useful tips, and more.
  • Alcohol-rehab centers — Both inpatient and outpatient addiction treatment centers exist to help patients recovering from alcohol and substance use disorders. Part of recovery often includes battling the symptoms individuals experience during sobriety, including the symptoms of dry drunk syndrome. Medication-assisted treatment may also be necessary to control these symptoms. 

If you or a loved one are experiencing dry drunk syndrome, seek help immediately.


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Ranganatha, Shanti. “Dry Drunk Syndrome in Alcoholics.” Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine, vol. 8, no. 1, 1985, https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0975156419850107.

“The Dry Drunk.” Cigna, www.cigna.com/individuals-families/health-wellness/the-dry-drunk

“What Is Dry Drunk Syndrome?” St. Joseph Institute for Addiction, 12 June 2019, stjosephinstitute.com/dry-drunk-syndrome/.

“What Is Dry Drunk Syndrome?” Vertava Health, 6 Jan. 2020, vertavahealth.com/blog/what-is-dry-drunk-syndrome/.

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