Tag Archives: Detox and Alcoholism Recovery

What Does Dry Drunk Syndrome Look Like?

While many associate “drunkenness” with behaviours like stumbling around, slurring words, or excessively loud speech, these tend to be telltale signs of intoxication by someone who has been drinking. Dry drunk syndrome, however, describes the emotions, thoughts and interactive nature of someone who has not consumed any alcohol, yet continues to “act” drunk.

What Is A Dry Drunk?

When a heavy drinker quits drinking, their brain must adjust to the chemical damage that alcohol has caused.
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) Author R.J. Solberg defined the term as “the presence of actions and attitudes that characterized the alcoholic prior to recovery.”

Dry drunk syndrome manifests as part of a broader condition known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS). When a heavy drinker quits drinking, their brain must adjust to the chemical damage that alcohol has caused. This process can last for weeks, months, or sometimes even years.

What Is The Difference Between Dry Drunk Syndrome and PAWS?

Even though it comes from the medical community, PAWS is not an official medical diagnosis. PAWS is how the medical community describes a collection of ongoing psychological and mood-related withdrawal symptoms that may take place long after addiction detox.

PAWS often comes in waves, and can continue in cycles long after receiving treatment. Each “episode” of PAWS can last for a few days or longer. How often and for how long a person experiences these symptoms depends on a variety of factors.

The following conditions can inform or worsen PAWS:

  • Which substance(s) were the focus of the addiction
  • How long, how frequently, and how much of these substances were used
  • Emotional issues that may surface during the first year(s) of recovery
  • Co-occurring physical and/or mental health conditions
  • The type of support and treatment options provided by substance abuse recovery professionals

Whereas “PAWS” is part of medical terminology, the idiom dry drunk is more of a colloquialism specific to Alcoholics Anonymous. It was coined as a phrase by AA creators to describe the emotional “roller coaster” that those in addiction recovery may experience even after acute withdrawal symptoms have gone away.

Dry Drunk Symptoms

Dry drunk describes the emotional “roller coaster” that those in addiction recovery may experience even after acute withdrawal symptoms have gone away.

Drinking–or whatever the substance of choice may be–becomes like a security blanket for an addicted individual. Thus, when that substance is removed from their life, things can get worse before they get better. Someone experiencing dry drunk syndrome may encounter any of the following internal or external symptoms during recovery:

Mood Symptoms:

  • Irritability, frustration, or anger
  • Impatience, restlessness, or difficulty focusing
  • Depression, anxiety, and fear of relapse
  • Resentment directed toward themselves, people who can still drink, or people who want them to quit drinking
  • Distraction or boredom

Behaviour Symptoms:

  • Dishonesty
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Aggressive or impulsive behavior
  • A tendency to judge, blame, or criticize themselves harshly
  • Frustration with treatment, which may lead to skipping meetings or counseling sessions, or giving up on them entirely
  • Daydreaming or romanticizing about alcohol use or their drinking days
  • Replacing the addiction with a new vice (e.g., sex, food, and internet use)

Why Might Someone Suffer From Dry Drunk Syndrome?

Both those struggling with an addiction and their families hope that, with the addictive substance removed, everything will be “okay.” The reality, however, is that the development of every addiction is complex. Furthermore, the addiction more than likely began because the person was not “okay” to begin with.

Recovery from addiction is not just learning how to say “no” to a substance. Because of the way the brain and body have become dependent upon and altered by a substance at the chemical (including emotional and psychological) level, addiction recovery essentially means rebuilding one’s identity without it.

Some people experience sobriety the way others process loss–or even death. They have to work through accepting the change, grieve, and learn to grow beyond it. Even someone who has willingly given up the substance of an addiction may struggle to be rid of the fixation or obsession with it.

The removal of this coping crutch can feel like the physical equivalent to losing your arm on the dominant side. When you’re used to relying on one particular thing to get through life, it takes retraining of the entire body and mind to make up for what used to be “auto-pilot.”

Addiction recovery essentially means rebuilding one’s identity without a dependence on any substance.

This is how dry drunk syndrome comes into the picture. The body, mind, and emotions are having to re-learn how to process the world. Before the healing is complete, they default to the ways it became wired to in addiction.

This can make recovering individuals feel that they are “white-knuckling it” through life. Some may still have strained relationships or maintain unhealthy physical and mental habits. The good news is that, with time and a dedication to counseling and learning new ways to cope with life, recovery beyond both addiction and dry drunk syndrome is possible.

We’re Here To Help

Many recognize the need to cease addictive behaviour, and this choice is an extremely important and courageous first step. However, all too often neither the person suffering from addiction nor their loved ones realize how long the road to recovery can be–or the likelihood of setbacks.

While sobriety is a noble pursuit, dry drunk syndrome is most common for those to quit drinking on their own. Reach out to us today, and let Reflections Rehab come beside you for the long–but rewarding–road to recovery.

Nutrition in Recovery

Nutrients found in food are essential to life. They provide calories and energy that is needed so we can go throughout our days. It is possible though to consume food without much nutrition and feel like you’re able to go about your day with no problems. The connection between food and health might not always be so clear to everyone. What may or may not seem obvious, is that food impacts our health and how we deal with daily life. With processed foods, it begins to lose most if not all of the nutrition it may have had. This type of food can leave someone feeling sick, lethargic, and can greatly affect one’s mood. Processed food puts the body into a state of inflammation, which leaves people feeling depressed and anxious.

Naturally, your body adjusts to what you regularly consume. If you eat only junk food, that is what you crave and what triggers the reward center in your brain. With nutrient therapy, we want to show that it is possible to feel better by eating better. Addiction significantly deprives the body of nutrients. For a thorough recovery, it is essential that we work with patients to repair their health through nutrition.

Alcohol and Nutrition

The vagus nerve is a nerve that helps your gut and your mind communicate. The food you consume directly affects this nerve, and naturally so does consumption of alcohol. When something is permeable, it becomes more absorbent or more easily allows substances to pass through. Some permeability in the gut or intestines, for example, is okay, but when it increases it can become a problem. A study done in 2014 found that alcohol-dependent subjects may have higher gut permeability, which can affect behavioral changes and mood.

The authors also wrote, “Alcohol-dependent subjects frequently develop emotional symptoms that contribute to the persistence of alcohol drinking.”* Someone might drink to cope with other issues and then develop issues from drinking, which will then lead to continued heavy drinking. This can clearly create a negative cycle; it will damage the gut and can lead to anxiety and depression, which then may be self-medicated with alcohol.

Furthermore, alcohol impedes a body’s ability to break down nutrients into molecules that the body desperately needs. Excessive consumption of alcohol can deprive the body of vitamins and minerals. A deficiency in Vitamin K, for example, can cause delayed blood clotting and will result in excess bleeding. Furthermore, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, “…eighty percent of bipolar sufferers have some vitamin B deficiencies (often accompanied by anemia).”* A vitamin B deficiency is not the sole cause, nor will everyone with a deficiency suffer from bipolar disorder. However, it is an important facet to consider and increasing vitamin B levels can help to alleviate some symptoms.

Other vitamin deficiencies can cause severe neurological damage. Mineral deficiencies can result in a number of health problems including calcium-related bone disease, zinc-related night blindness and skin lesions.* For clients seeking treatment for alcohol addiction, we will identify any malnutrition or micro-nutrient deficiencies. When we know what to address, we can form a plan with food, nutrition and other necessary medicine to restore balance.

Drugs and Nutrient Deprivation

Drugs also clearly deprive the body of essential nutrients and can lead to severe malnutrition. Opiates (including codeine, oxycodone, heroin, and morphine) can cause gastrointestinal problems which can include diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. This can result in a lack of nutrients and electrolytes, like sodium or potassium.* With stimulants, like meth, crack, or cocaine, appetite is reduced and this leads to weight loss and poor nutrition. Long-term use can result in permanent memory problems.* There are, of course, many other possible issues. Substance abuse is a disease that can drastically destroy the mind and body. However, with proper help and treatment there is hope.

When someone is in recovery, particularly after abusing stimulants, it is possible they might turn to overeating. At Reflections, we want to work with clients on a plan to return their health to a good place and to learn new, healthy habits. This can start with eating at regular times, eating food that is high in nutrition, and even learning to prepare healthy food for oneself. Nutrition is essential to having energy, maintaining body structure, and bodily function.

A better mood and mental state is a good defense against relapse in many ways. It can encourage someone to engage in other healthy behaviors. As good food makes the body and mind feel better, physical activity will be something clients feel they can engage in. Being active can be a significant help in recovery. Overall, we want our clients to develop good nutritional habits that will reach every other area of their lives.

Utilizing Nutrition in Recovery

At Reflections, each client will go through an initial evaluation. This allows us to take a comprehensive look at our client’s health. With laboratory testing, we can identify the vitamins and minerals where there is a deficiency. This helps us identify how their health is affected, physically or mentally, and how we can proceed with treatment. We can begin to introduce food and other healthy methods of restoring balance in the body. Our goal is that each client will feel better physically, which can lead to improved mental health. We also want clients to know that they can take control of their health and what they eat, and thus play a big part in their sobriety.

If we can teach our clients proper nutrition, we can allow them to take control. Learning about nutrition regarding food, drinks, and supplements is something clients can take with them after treatment. When clients are feeling better physically and mentally, they may feel more capable of engaging in physical activity. An active life in turn further benefits their physical and mental health, creating a positive cycle. At Reflections, we all truly want each client to walk away with the skills to continue a positive life and to maintain sobriety.

*Resources:
Intestinal Permeability – PNAS
Alcohol and Nutrition – National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
Substance Use Recovery and Diet – MedlinePlus