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  • Post published:22/12/2021
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What is a “Dry Drunk”?

Alcoholism is an all-consuming, life-ruining disease. Living with the illness often means the loss of family, relationships, job, wealth, and self-respect. Recovering from alcoholism takes time, hard work, and facing difficult struggles head-on. But, what happens if someone skips ahead of recovery and simply stops drinking cold turkey? This is called a “dry drunk,” a term invented by Alcoholics Anonymous.

Signs of a Dry Drunk

A “dry drunk” is someone who is no longer drinking but still displays the same attitudes and behavior as an alcoholic. Some specialists refer to it as untreated alcoholism or post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS). Symptoms of a “dry drunk” include:

  • Cross-addiction to other substances
  • Anger towards sober friends and family
  • Risky behavior
  • Acting irritably
  • Blaming others
  • Displaying a self-centered and pessimistic attitude
  • A negative view of sobriety
  • Difficulty concentrating and completing tasks
  • Fearing relapse
  • Failure to admit the pain and damage alcoholism has created
  • Depression and low self-esteem
  • Poor sleep patterns
  • Defensive when criticized
  • Making fun of or displaying jealousy towards others in recovery
  • Nostalgic feelings about past addiction
  • Black and white thinking

Which Thoughts and Actions Threaten Sobriety?

Sobriety isn’t just about not drinking anymore. Alcohol is often used to “treat” other problems like depression and anxiety or to replace another addiction. It may start as a way to cover up difficult emotions, fears, and stress.

A National Center for Biotechnology Information study featured five stages of relapse and rules for recovery, including:

  • Make a permanent change in your life. If you stay around your old triggers, you will relapse. Recovery can only be mastered by creating a life that encourages you not to use.
  • Be totally honest. This means telling people about your addiction and opening up. Talk to friends, family, therapists, and counselors about your feelings and how you got there.
  • Get help. Often, recovery fails because the addict thinks they can do it on their own. But addiction isn’t treated without assistance and accountability. Addicts need to realize that temptation will be a constant factor in the rest of their lives. After treatment is completed, accountability is the best practice. Outpatient therapy will keep the recovering alcoholic on task.
  • Embrace self-care. Most people use drugs or alcohol to escape or reward themselves. Replacing addictions with healthy pampering techniques can go a long way in recovery.
  • Don’t bend the rules. Loopholes will only help you sabotage your recovery.


Cognitive therapy is helpful to bring about real change and the development of coping skills. Conquering negative thoughts is a large part of recovery. Some negative thoughts addicts struggle with are:

  • Not being able to handle life without alcohol
  • Other people caused their alcoholism
  • Life isn’t fun without alcohol
  • Recovery is too much work
  • The cravings will be too much to handle

Stopping a “Dry Drunk”

According to an article published by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, entitled Alcoholism and Psychiatric Disorders Diagnostic Challenges, clinicians often struggle with determining if alcohol is a contributing factor or result of several psychiatric disorders. Many times the reason someone becomes a “dry drunk” is due to one or more comorbidities.

Diagnosis of comorbidities is vital to recovery. Depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety disorder, ASPD, social anxiety disorder, and other externalizing disorders are all tied to the abuse of alcohol or drugs. If the psychiatric condition is accurately diagnosed and treated, recovery is more effective. Comorbidities will continue to plague the recovering alcoholic without the proper medication, resulting in a “dry drunk” condition.

It is important to note that personal growth should be the focus in all recovery situations. Broadly, the stages of recovery include abstinence, repair, and growth. Once an individual has achieved abstinence, the repair and growth stages must occur to complete the process. Additionally, healing is a lifelong task to continuously defeat alcoholism.


ncbi.nlm.nih.gov – Relapse Prevention and the Five Rules of Recovery
pubs.niaaa.nih.gov – Alcoholism and Psychiatric Disorders Diagnostic Challenges
sciencedirect.com – Comorbidity of social anxiety disorder and antisocial personality disorder in the National Epidemiological Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC)
sunshinebehavioralhealth.com – Learn About What Dual Diagnosis Treatment Programs Offer

Photo Credit

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Guest Author Bio
Tasnova Malek

Tasnova Malek, MD, graduated from Bangladesh Medical College and practiced as a primary care physician for six years in Bangladesh. After moving to the USA, she worked at Emory University Hospital in Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine and Hospital medicine research. During COVID-19, she worked as a crisis counselor in Florida Corona Virus Emergency Response Team. Currently, she is working in the National Suicidal Prevention Center. In addition, she has extensive research experience in medicine and psychiatry in the USA.



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