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What Is A Dry Alcoholic? | Overview & Ways To Cope

Published on July 28, 2021
What Is A Dry Alcoholic? | Dry Drunk Syndrome

A person with dry drunk syndrome has stopped drinking alcohol, but still feels like they are suffering from the effects of alcohol abuse. Common side effects of dry drunk syndrome include anxiety, depression, trouble focusing, and mood swings.

Dry drunk is not recognized as an official medical term. Symptoms linked to dry drunk syndrome in the past are usually linked to symptoms of post-acute withdrawal syndrome, or PAWS.

The term “dry drunk” has seen less use in recent years, but you may still hear it when talking about alcohol withdrawal and the recovery process. 

Suffering from dry drunk syndrome or PAWS can make it harder to stay sober. A good support system can likely help you get through the worst of PAWS.

Origin Of “The Dry Drunk Syndrome”

A book titled “The Dry Drunk Syndrome” by R.J. Soiberg was published in 1970, and discussed the difference between happy and unhappy sobriety from alcohol.  

A follow-up, titled “The Dry Drunk Revisited,” was published by Soiberg in 1980. Both are associated with the 12-step program Alcoholics Anonymous.

Whether the term “dry drunk” was used before 1970 is not clear, but these are some of the earliest examples of its use. Today, you may still hear the term “dry drunk” being used to describe a person with post-acute withdrawal syndrome.

Symptoms Of Dry Drunk Syndrome

Post-acute alcohol withdrawal mostly affects your mental health. People in this stage of withdrawal have often improved their physical health caused by alcohol addiction. However, post-acute withdrawal can last for months or even years after you stop drinking.

Common symptoms of PAWS or dry drunk syndrome include:

  • irritability
  • anxiety about staying sober or abstaining from alcohol
  • mood swings
  • trouble sleeping
  • restlessness

Ways To Cope With Dry Drunk Syndrome

Dry drunk syndrome is likely a result of an alcohol use disorder, where a person cannot stop drinking. If a person with an AUD does try to quit alcohol, they may experience withdrawal and other side effects.

Alcohol abuse is one of the most common forms of substance abuse, and many substance use disorder treatment programs exist to help patients with dry drunk syndrome and other problems.

Professional Help

Alcohol rehab programs exist to detox patients from alcohol, manage withdrawal symptoms, and teach them effective ways to refrain from further drug abuse.

Specific recovery programs vary from treatment center to treatment center, but they likely involve getting rid of alcohol dependency, getting patients through the withdrawal stage, and offering physical and mental health services.

Treatment programs may be inpatient or outpatient.

Coping Mechanisms

Some people may go through dry drunk syndrome after their treatment program is over. Alcohol addiction treatment programs teach patients coping mechanisms, so they can deal with these situations in healthy ways.

Common coping mechanisms include taking up new hobbies such as drawing, writing, or doing sports. Other patients may take up yoga or meditation during therapy as ways to deal with their anxiety. Still others may join emotional support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous.

One goal of treatment programs is to prepare you for going back to your daily life. Teaching patients coping mechanisms can help them stay sober without leaning on professional help.

To find the best treatment possible for yourself, a family member, or another loved one, please contact our helpline today.

Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
This page does not provide medical advice.

Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior - Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS)​​​
The American Journal of Psychiatry - THE PSYCHODYNAMICS OF THE "DRY DRUNK"
WorthPoint - The Dry Drunk Syndrome & The Dry Drunk Revisited Alcoholics Anonymous related

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