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Los Angeles IOP Drug Rehab for Addiction and Mental Health Disorders

Clinically Reviewed by Linda Whiteside, LPCC

Medically Reviewed by: Dr. Ryan Peterson, MD

Dry Drunk Syndrome: What it is and How to Deal with It

Table of Contents

Dry Drunk Syndrome Signs and Symptoms

Typically when someone enters into treatment or begins recovery from alcoholism, they have one goal in mind, and that is to quit drinking. While remaining sober is the number one goal of most recovery programs it is only the first step in the process or truly recovering and healing the damage of alcoholism. Recognizing when someone is a “dry drunk” or dealing with dry drunk syndrome is important for real long-term recovery.

True recovery comes from not only remaining sober but in changing many of the behaviors and thought patterns that lead to alcoholism in the first place. In many ways, real recovery is a process of reinventing yourself and creating a new identity for yourself. This can be a challenging process for many of us as we become set in our ways and the unhealthy behaviors that lead to abusing alcohol or other substances can be deeply ingrained into our psyche and way of being.

Recovering from Alcoholism – Avoiding Dry Drunk Syndrome

Exploring these deep-seeded issues can be a difficult and challenging process that can bring up deep seeded emotions in the process. While you know that you need to take it “one day at a time,” you can feel frustrated with your progress. These feelings are entirely reasonable, however, the longer the linger without a proper way to manage them the more harmful they can be to sustainable sobriety and long-term recovery. These feelings of resentments, frustration, and anger that occupy your daily life is what is referred to as dry drunk syndrome.

While this phenomenon is associated with those who are recovering from alcoholism, it can be applied to anyone who is recovering from substance abuse, but often is something experienced by someone who is remaining abstinent but not working to correct the underlying issues that lead them to drink in the first place. If you are in recovery and are feeling stuck, it is essential to be aware of dry drunk thinking. The following article details dry drunk syndrome, its symptoms and what you can do to minimize its impact in your recovery.

What is Dry Drunk Syndrome?

In simple terms, dry drunk syndrome occurs when a person fully recovers from the physical cravings of substance abuse but still has unresolved psychological and behavioral issues associated with their addiction.

In these cases, someone in recovery from alcoholism may not have undergone therapy and counseling to tackle these issues. Many alcoholics who can maintain their sobriety feel they simply don’t need treatment or to work a program, which may hinder their ability to truly heal from the underlying issues that lay at the root of their problems with alcoholism.

While some recovering addicts succeed in ceasing use of their substance of choice, they may be unwilling or afraid of facing the underlying causes for their addiction, which can be a challenging but essential part of the recovery process. In early recovery as the brain goes through the processes of repairing itself, someone who has been using long-term starts to achieve clarity and is faced with the harsh reality of their past transgressions. 

During this process, people begin to feel emotions that have been suppressed through drug and alcohol use. It is important to have a support system or someone who can help make sense of these feelings, as feelings of anger, frustration, self-pity, shame, and doubt can be harmful to long-term recovery.  

Without counseling the therapy, these feelings can amplify causing someone to lash out at themselves and loved ones, and to engage in a number of unhealthy behaviors. If left unchecked, these feelings can often result in relapse and active substance use.

The Signs of Dry Drunk Syndrome

There are a few tell-tale signs that a recovering addict is experiencing dry drunk syndrome. These include the following:

  • The frustration of the fact the addict can’t drink or use again for fear of relapse.
  • Feeling alone or depressed due to “having” to remain sober.
  • Feelings sadness and regret their addiction robbed them of their potential and consistently thinking what could have been if they never used drugs and/or alcohol.
  • Jealousy of others who can control their drinking and not be addicted.
  • Feelings of guilt and shame about how their substance use impacted the lives of family and friends.
  • The fear of failure that relapse will happen.
  • Trying to pursue recovery in isolation

Overcoming Dry Drunk Syndrome

At NuView Treatment Center, we provide holistic outpatient treatment program to help you in your recovery. Want to know more? Get in touch with us today!

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Written By: Linda Whiteside

Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor who has been providing mental health services for over 10 years.

Medically reviewed by: Dr. Ryan Peterson

Went to medical school at The George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C.

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