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What Is Dry Drunk Syndrome?

Posted by Mandy Donnison
on 12 Dec 2021

What is Dry Drunk Syndrome?

Dry Drunk Syndrome is described by members of Alcoholics Anonymous as “the presence of actions and attitudes that characterised the alcoholic prior to recovery”. A ‘dry drunk’ will typically start turning back to destructive habits and ignoring the positive mantras they have developed to aid their sobriety. Dry drunk syndrome is widely regarded as one of the main causes of alcohol relapse

How does Dry Drunk Syndrome happen?

People who drink a large amount of alcohol over a long period of time are more likely to suffer from dry drunk syndrome. Usually, during the first one to two weeks of a medically assisted alcohol detox, people exhibit a variety of withdrawal symptoms, ranging from hand tremors and excessive sweating to anxiety and depression. Dry drunk syndrome occurs long after this acute phase of withdrawal is complete, often to people who’ve tried to quit without the help of trained professionals.

A chronic alcoholic should never try to quit alone. It’s always best to seek the help of a recognised residential rehab clinic. When a heavy drinker quits, the brain must adjust to the chemical damage that alcohol has caused. Sometimes the effects of heavy alcohol misuse on the brain can remain for weeks after abstinence and lead to an increased craving for alcohol and increased feelings of anxiety. If you are still craving alcohol in sobriety then your recovery is compromised, and you may be at risk of an alcohol relapse.

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Symptoms of a dry drunk

Symptoms of dry drunk syndrome tend to develop slowly over a period of time, usually within the first year of recovery. Everyone’s experience is different, but typically someone with dry drunk syndrome will start to have mood swings, act out and be uncomfortable to be around. If you are a recovering alcoholic or a loved one, it’s good to know some of the common symptoms of a dry drunk to help them stay on the right path.

Mood symptoms of a dry drunk:
  • Resentment toward friends and family
  • Bitterness and anger over recovery
  • Irritability, anxiety and depression
  • Fear of relapse
  • Jealousy around sober friends
Behaviour symptoms of a dry drunk:
  • Impulsive behaviour and lack of control
  • Self-obsession and self-importance
  • Romanticising about the past
  • Isolation from support network
  • Cross-addiction with other addictions e.g. gambling, sex, internet
Physical symptoms of a dry drunk:
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Slurred speech
  • Balance and coordination problems
  • Poor memory

If you recognise any of these symptoms in yourself or someone else, speak to an addiction professional who will be able to give you the support tools and coping strategies to continue in active recovery and achieve lasting sobriety. Contact Delamere

Can you prevent dry drunk syndrome?

A dry drunk is someone who is still adopting unhealthy habits, both mentally and physically, after trying to quit alcohol. This typically happens because they haven’t tackled the root cause of their reasons for drinking in the first place. At Delamere, we take a holistic approach to treating alcohol addiction, considering all aspects of your physical, psychological and emotional well-being before developing an individualised treatment plan. Addictions are often associated with past traumas and these need to be identified and addressed to inform the coping strategies that can help people out of addiction.

The Delamere treatment model focuses on three key areas:
  • Stop the addictive behaviour with the right help
  • Start healing and working through what brought about addiction
  • Grow beyond addiction yet stay anchored in support

The first year of sobriety is always the hardest. Having a support network of people who have been in a similar situation can make all the difference to your recovery. All guests at Delamere leave with a ‘future-proof’ plan to keep their recovery on track and 12 months of access to their clinical team, counsellors and group therapy sessions. We believe with the right support anyone can permanently break the cycle of alcohol addiction.

If you are not drinking but are still experiencing the symptoms of being an alcoholic, such as aggression, impulsive behaviour or disturbed sleep, it’s likely you haven’t yet dealt with the underlying causes of your addiction. Getting professional help to tackle these issues head on is the best way to help prevent an alcohol relapse.

How to cope with dry drunk syndrome

If you’ve been through an alcohol rehab programme at a recognised treatment centre, you’ll already be well equipped with the tools to maintain your sobriety. We understand this isn’t always a straight path and it takes great courage and resolve to overcome your triggers and remain in active recovery. When negative thoughts and behaviours start to creep in, there are some additional healthy habits you can adopt to cope with the symptoms of dry drunk syndrome.

Connect with family and friends

It isn’t always easy to talk about your problems but keeping in close contact with your loved ones or other friends in recovery can help you to stay on track. Make an effort to schedule regular meetups or attend group therapy sessions. Sharing your feelings will help you to notice if your behaviour is indicating dry drunk syndrome and get on top of it before you veer off course.

Stay physically active

Exercise is one of the best forms of therapy. It doesn’t have to cost anything and has huge benefits for both body and mind. Go for a long walk, take up running or try a new sport. Guests at Delamere enjoy yoga and dance as part of their residential rehab programme at our wellness retreat which have multiple restorative benefits.

Find something you love doing

Taking up a new hobby can help to keep you focused on another task and distracted from negative thoughts and feelings which may lead to dry drunk syndrome. Perhaps you’ve always wanted to learn to play the piano or go back to studying. Choose something that makes you feel good and has a positive outcome. At Delamere, we use art therapy to help people relax and recover.

Take care of yourself

Practising good self-care is one of the guiding principles of a successful recovery. Get some form of exercise every day, eat a balanced diet, get outside more and make sure you get enough sleep. This can be easier said than done, but even trying to accomplish one of these things is a step in the right direction.

Learn to cope

Guests at Delamere learn a range of coping strategies to help them overcome distressing emotions. This includes somatic techniques such as breath work that can allow you to interrupt negative habitual patterns. These can help to take your thoughts away from drinking and focus your energy elsewhere.

Be kind to yourself

It’s important to remember that you’ve already come a long way by deciding to quit drinking. Whilst you may have feelings of guilt or hopelessness, addiction isn’t something to be ashamed about. Many recovering alcoholics will experience some symptoms of dry drunk syndrome. You are not a failure. Get the help you need and keep going.

If you think that you, or someone you know, are suffering with dry drunk syndrome, please speak to a member of the team at Delamere and we’ll show you how we can help.

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1. Kiefer F, Andersohn F, Jahn H, Wolf K, Raedler TJ, Wiedemann K. Involvement of plasma atrial natriuretic peptide in protracted alcohol withdrawal: ANP and alcohol. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica. 2002 and 105(1):65-70. doi:10.1034/j.1600-0447.2002.0_011.x,

About the author: Mandy Donnison

Mandy manages our admin, HR and finance functions here at Delamere. Find out more about Mandy on our team page.

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