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Updated on September 8, 2023
5 min read

What is Dry Drunk Syndrome & How to Cope

What is Dry Drunk Syndrome?

"Dry drunk" is a slang term that originated in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). It refers to people who continue to experience drunk behavioral patterns while sober. It’s also a part of Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS). 

Dry drunk syndrome is common among people with alcohol addiction who recently stopped drinking. However, it can also occur in some people even if they stopped drinking years ago.

Since its symptoms are mostly psychological, someone may be quietly suffering from dry drunk syndrome. Consider contacting a healthcare professional if you or someone you know is experiencing dry drunk syndrome.

Is Dry Drunk Syndrome a Sign of Relapse?

People can experience symptoms of dry drunk syndrome months to years after they stop drinking. Although they may still have urges to drink occasionally, they’re not physically relapsing.

It's also important to remember 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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What Causes Dry Drunk Syndrome?

Dry drunk syndrome develops in people recovering from alcohol use disorder (AUD). Alcohol affects the brain and your physical, mental, and emotional health. 

Alcohol effects on the brain can last for months or years. This is why some people can still feel the behavioral and mental side effects of alcoholism, even after treatment.

Symptoms of Dry Drunk Syndrome

It can be challenging to recognize if someone has developed dry drunk syndrome, even if their loved ones are already familiar with an alcoholic’s negative behaviors.

To some people, they might not look different from their “normal” behavior. Signs like moodiness and lack of motivation may be expected. 

It’s important to familiarize yourself with dry drunk syndrome's emotional and psychological issues. These symptoms include, but are not limited to:

  • Dishonesty
  • Difficulty expressing emotions
  • Mood swings or irritability
  • Self-pity
  • Selfishness or self-importance
  • Impatience or impulsivity
  • Indecisiveness
  • Disorganization
  • Weight gain
  • Extreme desire to drink
  • Believing that sobriety is or will be boring and unfulfilling
  • Frustration about being unable to drink
  • Anger or resentment towards people who convinced them to quit drinking
  • Jealousy toward other recovering alcoholics
  • Blaming others for their problems
  • Refusing to accept constructive criticism from loved ones and care professionals
  • Being easily distracted
  • Feeling disconnected from loved ones
  • Disinterest in hobbies and previous passions
  • Missing or reminiscing about past drinking days
  • Ignoring personal obligations and the needs of family members
  • Backing away or refusing substance abuse treatment
  • Avoiding support group meetings (e.g., Alcoholics Anonymous)
  • Insisting that they’re completely recovered

If you or a loved one are experiencing any of these symptoms, professional help is available.

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4 Tips for Coping With Dry Drunk Syndrome

Experiencing dry drunk syndrome is very common, with many recovering alcoholics dealing with this condition daily. Remember, this is nothing to be ashamed of.

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

1. Taking 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
  • 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 healthy coping methods 

2. Committing To Change

When you find yourself falling off track, it's important to remember why you stopped drinking. Remembering why you quit in the first place can help motivate you to continue with sobriety. Reach out for support if you are having trouble keeping this vision.

3. Going Easy On Yourself

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

Remember that it’s just a part of the process when you fall back into old thought patterns. Forgive yourself and be proud of how far you have come.

4. Reaching Out For Support

When things get especially difficult, it's always important to remind yourself that you’re not alone. Reach out to loved ones or alcohol support groups if you feel isolated.

Your support system can help keep you accountable and prevent you from drinking alcohol. They may also distract you from giving in to cravings. 

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How Long Does Dry Drunk Syndrome Last?

The recovery process from alcoholism can be difficult and vary from person to person. The side effects of quitting a substance can last long and may require additional aftercare to overcome.  

Dry drunk syndrome’s side effects can last as long as you don’t get treatment or seek support. Its symptoms will remain if you don’t develop the coping skills necessary to handle them.

A detox plan or joining a rehab program can help you avoid drinking and overcome an alcohol dependency.

Treatment Options for Dry Drunk Syndrome

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

Some addiction treatment options for dry drunk syndrome include:

  • Inpatient treatment: Involves checking yourself into a rehab facility for 24-hour medical supervision 
  • Outpatient treatment: A treatment program similar to inpatient treatment where you are freely allowed to leave the rehab facility
  • Partial hospitalization: A treatment program where you stay at a rehab facility for a day and return home at night
  • Medication-assisted treatment: Involves using medication, counseling, and therapy to treat addiction
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy: A short-term therapy technique that explores the link between thought patterns and addiction
  • Support groups: Groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) provide a much-needed community to help maintain sobriety after treatment

Summary

Dry drunk syndrome affects people recovering from alcohol abuse or alcohol use disorders (AUDs). It’s part of Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS).

Dry drunk syndrome often comes with mental health issues and other addictive behaviors. Because these negative behaviors are often associated with recovering alcoholics, it can be difficult to recognize if you’re experiencing dry drunk syndrome.

You can develop coping mechanisms and techniques to avoid relapsing when experiencing dry drunk syndrome. However, you’ll need support and aftercare to overcome it.

Updated on September 8, 2023
5 sources cited
Updated on September 8, 2023
All Alcoholrehabhelp content is medically reviewed or fact checked to ensure as much factual accuracy as possible.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only link to reputable media sites, academic research institutions and, whenever possible, medically peer reviewed studies.
  1. APA PsycNet.” American Psychological Association, American Psychological Association.

  2. Hunter, T.A., and Salomone, P.R. “Dry Drunk Symptoms and Alcoholic Relapse.” Journal of Applied Rehabilitation Counseling, 1987.

  3. Ranganatha, S. “Dry Drunk Syndrome in Alcoholics.” Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine, 1985.

  4. The Dry Drunk.” Cigna.

  5. Hinders, D. “What Is Dry Drunk Syndrome?” St. Joseph Institute for Addiction, 2019.

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All content created by Alcohol Rehab Help is sourced from current scientific research and fact-checked by an addiction counseling expert. However, the information provided by Alcohol Rehab Help is not a substitute for professional treatment advice.
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