Dry drunk is a troubling condition that many people assume to be urban myth or legend. However, dry drunk is very real and for some recovering alcoholics it causes severe disruptions in their lives. Because many of these disruptions are related to the misunderstandings and assumptions of other people and poor outward appearance caused by dry drunk, creating awareness about this condition is critical to fostering an environment that no longer persecutes or harasses people with this symptom of post acute withdrawal syndrome.
Post acute withdrawal syndrome causes a number of symptoms and conditions that can make it difficult for a drug addict or alcoholic in recovery to maintain their sobriety. These symptoms depend on many variables and can range from minor headaches to severe emotional issues. Some of these symptoms combine to form dry drunk, which can best be described as a person who acts and appears inebriated even thought they are not. This term almost exclusively applies to alcoholics who are in recovery (usually during the first 2 years of abstinence).
Dry drunk includes post acute withdrawal symptoms such as shaking or unsteady hands, poor balance, stumbling, falling, slurred speech, memory lapses, and other symptoms that might seem to outside observers to be a clear indication that the person is drunk or otherwise intoxicated. This can cause a person in recovery to be ridiculed, ostracized and excluded if others think that have returned to active drinking.
Symptoms of post acute withdrawal syndrome are caused by damage to nerve cells and wiring in the brain and are difficult to predict. Typically those who suffer from this condition have had repeated relapse and abstinence episodes, indicating that they are probably suffering from what is known as the Kindling Effect. When the kindling effect sets in, each repeated withdrawal and relapse becomes substantially worse than the last. People with many of these episodes sometimes suffer from what appears to be "sober drunkenness" when they are in a period of abstinence.
Dry drunk can cause alcoholics to relapse simply to seek relief from the uncomfortable and embarrassing symptoms. Additionally, many drunks report that upon resumption of active alcoholism, the symptoms disappear. This is because most symptoms related to post acute withdrawal syndrome are a result of the body attempting to normalize itself. For chronic alcoholics, being drunk is normal, which means that many of the symptoms experienced during the early stages of sobriety can be relieved by drinking again.
Dry drunk is different for everyone that experiences it, but treatments are available that primarily focus on addressing the worst symptoms with therapy and medication where required. This is because despite the differences in specific symptoms and severity, for most people dry drunk is a temporary affliction. If you or someone you care about has been suffering from dry drunk for a long period of time, you should seek the advice and treatment of a medical professional, as there could be an underlying cause or another issue altogether causing the problem.
Dry drunk is a term that was widely used in the 50's through the 70's, but has fallen out of use in the addiction treatment industry in the last 2 decades. In most cases this term is only referred to by "old school" alcoholics, but in some cases people who are addicted to opiates display similar symptoms. And because any of these symptoms can lead to a relapse episode, it's important to be aware of the possibility of dry drunk and take the appropriate steps to mitigate its effects without returning to drug use or drinking.
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