Untreated Alcoholism Symptoms

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Untreated alcoholism is related to the word dry drunk. Dry drunk refers to the person who already quit using drugs or drinks alcoholic beverages but still shows alcoholism symptoms.

They usually experienced or showed negative actions, feelings, attitudes, and thoughts when they were active drinking alcohol and using drugs.

However, removing the things they used to do without treating first the underlying factors may result in "untreated alcoholism symptoms" or "dry drunk syndrome".

Both “untreated alcoholism” and “dry drunk” are used in the sober community.

But both of them describe the same symptoms. This kind of condition is very risky that is considered to be the first stage to possible relapse.

Since there are several treatment options for overcoming alcoholism, you or your loved ones should not end up being a dry drunk. Seeking professional help is always the best choice.

Defining Dry Drunk or Untreated Alcoholism

A person can be considered as a dry drunker if he or she possesses at least one of the following conditions:

  • A person who already gave up his or her addiction to drugs or alcohol but still shows behavioural and emotional problems like they used to do before. In other words, the only thing that was removed from a substance-dependent person is his excessive use of drugs and alcohol.
  • A person with a substance dependency problem and decided to start their recovery but has constant relapse during the whole process. This includes little to no engagement during their 12-step fellowships, inactive to most sponsor relationships and minimal to no engagement to 12-step meeting attendance. This category usually covers those drug addicts and sober alcoholics that start to show restlessness, uneasiness, isolation behaviour, and negative thinking towards living their life.

In most cases, the term regression in the sober community is related to the old way a substance-addicted person acts and thinks. It is also referred to not seeing notable progress during their recovery.

As mentioned, "untreated alcoholism" is another catchphrase to define a person that is much dependent on alcohol and drugs.

Discontented, irritable, and restless are some of the terms associated with untreated alcoholism and drunk syndrome.

This means that if people defined you as a drug addict or sober alcoholic and you usually find yourself unsatisfied with what you have in life, you are more likely to have an untreated addiction or alcoholism.

Health Risks of Untreated Alcoholism

Untreated alcoholism or dry drunk is a condition that does not only affect your professional and personal relationships – it can also lead you to develop dangerous and life-threatening health consequences.

Drug or alcohol addiction poses long-term and short-term health consequences. Even though some of these risks are treatable and only last temporarily, most are irreversible and permanent.

The following are the different life-threatening health risks of untreated alcoholism. Read on to know further.

High Blood Pressure

Regularly drinking too much alcohol can cause you to develop or experience hypertension/high blood pressure.

While drinking alcohol occasionally can still cause your blood pressure to rise after hours of drinking, your blood pressure will usually revert to normal after your body can metabolize the alcohol content.

On the other hand, if you are drinking too much every day, too much alcohol can cause hypertension and circulation problems and may pose problems involving your blood vessels.

As time goes on, the damages caused by alcohol can increase your susceptibility to developing stroke and heart attack. What’s more, too much alcohol in a person's body can lead to kidney failure.

Suppose a person’s high blood pressure is caused by too much alcohol content in his/her body.

In that case, professionals usually advise eating a healthy and balanced diet, exercising regularly, reducing body fats and cholesterol levels, and taking the medicines prescribed by the doctors to minimize the attack of hypertension.

Other notable factors contributing to the development of hypertension include cigarette smoking, renal diseases, sedentary lifestyle, and family history.

Still, it is important to acknowledge that alcoholism is a big aspect contributing to this life-threatening disease.

Alcoholic Liver Disease

Another common problem caused by untreated alcoholism is alcoholic-related liver diseases, which include hepatitis and cirrhosis.

Cirrhosis is a liver-related disease that can be developed by anyone fond of heavy drinking for many years. In most cases, this disease is a late effect of alcohol addiction.

However, it is also considered to be disease-causing scarring to your liver tissue.

On the other hand, untreated alcoholism can also lead to fatty liver disease or hepatitis. A person who develops this kind of liver disease is usually the one who had developed cirrhosis.

Even though many professionals claim that cirrhosis is treatable, the damages it caused to one’s liver are permanent and irreversible. The following are the early symptoms of cirrhosis.

The following are the early symptoms of cirrhosis:

  • A person’s abdomen has large capillaries
  • A person feel tenderness and pain in his liver
  • Itching
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Weight loss
  • Jaundice
  • Fatigue and tiredness
  • Weakness

It is important to visit a professional if a person experiences at least two or more signs and symptoms mentioned above.

This is because he/she needs upfront treatment, such as laxatives designed to eliminate toxins, diuretics used to get rid of excess fluid, medications to minimize the pain, and, if possible, a liver transplant.

After these treatments, the person will be sent to rehabilitation to treat his/her alcohol addiction professionally.

Bleeding Risk

Decreased platelet aggregation is a situation where a person’s blood platelets become less sticky. This is one of the causes of alcoholism.

Aside from that, consuming too much alcohol can reduce the number of platelets a person has. These two are the risky side effects of untreated alcoholism that cause abnormality to your blood clotting.

Being an alcohol addict increases a person’s susceptibility to risky bleeding. Aside from the bleeding issues a person may experience during and after surgeries, this could also increase one’s susceptibility to hemorrhagic stroke.

If a person with bleeding risk takes prescription medicines or aspirin, he/she would have a higher chance of bleeding after consuming alcoholic drinks.

Losing too much blood because of drinking too much may also put a person's life at risk for developing anaemia. Anaemia usually occurs when a person experiences heavy bleeding because of possible internal bleeding.

The following are the possible signs and symptoms if a person experiences heavy bleeding or internal bleeding. If one or two of these symptoms are present, immediately visit a professional for quick medical treatment:

  • Pale mucous membranes
  • Dizziness
  • Pallor
  • Fast heart rate
  • Shortness of breath

Causes of Untreated Alcoholism

Before diving into the causes of untreated alcoholism, it is important to know its nature.

  • Alcoholism and alcohol abuse are both types of behavioural disorders
  • Deciding to stop drinking alcohol for good only solves the person's dependency on alcoholic beverages
  • A person with sustained sobriety needs a massive change to his/her behaviours
  • In most cases, drinking too much alcohol or alcohol addiction is usually the result of an unhealthy stress-coping mechanism
  • A person can understand the main reason behind the development of alcoholism syndrome if he/she knows and analyses the different natures of alcohol addiction.

    After learning the nature of alcoholism, it is now time to dive into its common causes.

    The different causes of untreated alcoholism or dry drunk are listed below.

    Cannot Mitigate Negative Thoughts

    A person classified as a dry drinker needs to develop self-control (i.e. avoiding impulsive reactions to negativities).

    During this step towards recovery, a person is taught how to handle negative feelings and thoughts that cause stress in his/her daily life.

    If they cannot control their emotions and reactions towards negativities, they are more likely to grab a liquor and drink it impulsively.

    Cannot Modify Their Behavioural Responses

    There is no doubt that a person with untreated alcoholism considered drinking an alcoholic beverage is the only way to cope with stress coming into their life.

    If this person cannot develop a healthy way to cope with life stresses, there is a high chance to get back to their old coping mechanism, which is alcohol drinking.

    So they tend to grab a drink because that is the only way they think and respond to stress and problems.

    Going Back to His Old Life Filled with Stress

    People who used to be dry drinkers and decided to go for a rehabilitation programme are expected to go back to the outside world, live their normal lives, and work efficiently and independently away from alcohols.

    But the life they used to live before may probably still covered with stress that could trigger their alcohol addiction for the second time.

    If a person's stress-coping mechanism is not suitable, it would be harder for them to know why many people are starting to live their old selves being a heavy drinker.

    Mental Health Issues

    Even though chemical abuse or substance dependency usually causes a person to have a significant change to his personality or develop a psychiatric problem, there are still possible causes behind it.

    For example, some people dealing with mental health problems usually drink too much alcohol to cope with their problems.

    If this is the case, professionals would think that PAWS (Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome) is the probable cause behind the mental problem of a person.

    As concluded in the EU’s report back in 2016, the comorbidity between withdrawal syndromes, substance and alcohol abuse, and mental health disorders ranges from 7 per cent to 85 per cent.

    Even though the signs and symptoms of psychiatric disorders are usually related to protracted abstinence disturbance and substance abuse, the following are considered to be the most reliable relations:

    • BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder)
    • APD (Antisocial Personality Disorder)
    • GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder)
    • MDD (Major Depression Disorder)

    Believing Fake Expectations Regarding Recovery

    Keep in mind that sobriety is a lifetime journey for a person who decided to quit drinking alcohol, went through thorough alcohol detoxification, and engaging in a rehabilitation program.

    But, only a few individuals know this. Most of the time, many people think that after completing their rehabilitation program or quitting alcohol drinking, they will see a significant improvement in every aspect of their lives.

    So, if a person notices that it is not happening or sees little to no progress, they would feel depressed, frustrated, and discouraged.

    Most professionals concluded that abusing alcohol and drugs could lead to insistent changes to the brain structure.

    These changes to brain structure could significantly impact several abstinence disorder manifestations and quickly develop several mental health problems.

    Signs and Symptoms of Untreated Alcoholism Syndrome

    Knowing and understanding the different signs and symptoms of untreated alcoholism is important. This is because a lot of dry drinkers do not take them seriously.

    In most cases, the signs and symptoms of alcoholism usually imitate the mental and emotional state of an alcoholic person.


    A person that cannot handle stress effectively usually possesses the behaviour of an impulsive and impatient person.

    A person who is accustomed to drinking considers alcohol as their instant gratification. When the former alcoholic does not get what he wanted or planned for, the stress will automatically come in.

    That person will do anything he wants to get what he hoped for without considering the possible harm it could cause himself or to others.

    Showing Intolerance to Stress

    The former alcohol addict has known to have a low tolerance to stress. As a result, he or she usually experiences frustration if stressors come into their life.

    In most cases, they cannot handle a single stressor that could be dealt with by an average person.

    Engaging Risky Behaviour

    Even though the person already quit drinking alcohol, there is still a chance that they will use other substance abuse that could help them to cope with stress.

    Lack of Interest to Things They Were Interested

    When a person completed the rehabilitation programme and detoxified all the alcohol content in his body, it is expected that that person will become more enthusiastic about doing all the activities they used to do before.

    But in the case of people who have been a dry drinker for the previous years usually lose their interest to perform activities they loved before.

    In other words, these people show unwillingness to build their whole life again after completing the program.

    How to Avoid Untreated Alcoholism

    It is pretty impossible to believe, but a person can avoid untreated alcoholism by solving the primary issue of alcohol addiction.

    It is important to know and pay close attention to the signs and symptoms that an alcoholic is starting to his old way of thinking.

    If a person is still not receiving behavioural therapy or counselling, it would be great to be part of such a rehabilitation program.

    Know, Understand, and Pay Close Attention to the Symptoms

    The earlier a person notice at least one of the signs and symptoms of untreated alcoholism, the sooner he can prevent and avoid being triggered by something that could lead to a relapse.

    Enrol in Rehabilitation Programme

    As mentioned, if a person still does not receive any treatment or going through counselling or behavioural therapy, it would be a great idea to do so.

    The program is designed to help alcoholic people get out of being in that spot.

    Adjust the Assumptions about the Real Meaning of Recovery

    Keep in mind that commitment requires a lifelong commitment. This means that a person, even though he already completed the program, must have rigorous practice and patience.

    If that person feels something is wrong, he needs the companionship of a professional to correct it.

    Final Thoughts

    Abuse of drugs and alcohol is still treatable. One can treat it with the help of professionals and proper medical procedures, such as rehabilitation.

    The result will always depend on the relationship between the professional and the patient. Rehabilitation is the best way to help alcoholic and substance-dependent individuals.

    Our rehabilitation centres at Abbeycare Scotland and Abbeycare Gloucester offer holistic therapies and different treatment programmes tailored to our patients’ needs. Visit us today to schedule an appointment.

    Last Updated: September 19, 2023

    About the author

    Peter Szczepanski

    Peter has been on the GPhC register for 29 years. He holds a Clinical Diploma in Advanced Clinical Practice and he is a Clinical Lead in Alcohol and Substance Misuse for Abbeycare Gloucester and works as the Clinical Lead in Alcohol and Substance Use in Worcestershire. Peter also co-authored the new 6th edition of Drugs In Use by Linda Dodds, writing Chapter 15 on Alcohol Related Liver Disease. Find Peter on Respiratory Academy, Aston University graduates, University of Birmingham, Q, Pharmaceutical Journal, the Dudley Pharmaceutical Committee, Dudley Council, Twitter, and LinkedIn.