'Dry Drunk' and the Law?

About 30 years ago, a registered nurse was telling me about this. It’s been so long, I don’t even know the context.

Alcoholics, even if they haven’t had a drop to drink, might suffer from a phenomenon called dry drunk. Basically, the alcohol trapped in your fat deposits comes loose (presumably as your body metabolizes your stored fat). And then you are basically wasted, even if you haven’t touched the stuff. Even your breath reeks of it.

My question is, has this ever come up in court? Say with a drunk driving case–or anything else for that matter (use your imagination)? And could a good lawyer use this defense? That would be my next question.

It was called ‘dry drunk’ 30 years ago as I said. I don’t know if they call it anything different today.


This isn’t a thing @Jim_B.

Perhaps your thinking of ABS.


From here.

Because ethanol is soluble in water it moves into water spaces throughout the body. The water spaces include the bloodstream, extracellular spaces, and intracellular spaces. However, ethanol does not accumulate in adipose tissue (fat) because it has little non-polar character and it prefers to reside in water. So it is restricted to a finite “water” volume within the body.

If they’re trying to launch a six-day filibuster by reciting all the 9th grade-level biology that nurses are routinely ignorant of, then maybe…

People also claimed that LSD would accumulate in cerebrospinal fluid, then released even years later, causing “acid flashbacks”.

“Dry drunk” is a real thing, but it has nothing to do with the OP ideas.

Wikipedia says:

Dry drunk is a colloquial expression that describes an alcoholic who no longer drinks but otherwise maintains the same behavior patterns of an alcoholic. The objective of groups such as Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous is not just to help their members stop abusing drugs and alcohol.

As opposed to, say, nitrous oxide, which is quite fat-soluble.

Not sure what the point is of bringing up nitrous oxide. A better analogy would be THC which can stay in your fat cells up to a month.

My dad was a dry drunk. Just stopped consuming a couple of fifths of Canadian Club and a carton of cigs a week cold turkey after the doctor told him he wouldn’t live to see me graduate HS in two years. He was hell to live with for the next 7 years. We barely spoke during those days without it turning into a shouting match.

I’m telling you that I remember clear as day this registered nurse calling what I just described as ‘dry drunk’. And the body fat and breath thing.

I don’t know. She was from Pennsylvania. It is a very rural state. And I have met ‘old country doctor’ types (yes, I know she was an RN–but bear with me). Such doctors, I know, sometimes have obsolete or antiquated data. Could that have something to do with it? Just asking and saying :slight_smile: .

" Dry drunk" has been used to describe an someone who no longer drinks but persists in other behaviors associated with alcoholism for over 30 years. Now, this nurse may have told you exactly what you remember - but if so, she was incorrect.

Yeah, dry drunk is something people used to accuse George W Bush of being. Basically it means being an asshole.

Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Erie would all like a word with you.

Is there any medical use for the word ‘dry drunk’ or is it more AA bullshit? I’ve only heard it used for those who quit drinking but don’t follow the AA cult.

My stepfather was an alcoholic who quit drinking and basically became a much better person. But, on a couple of occasions, under a lot of stress, he behaved in his old ways, without having had anything to drink. His sponsor told him he was “dry drunk” and got him back on track. It’s a thing, but has nothing to do with fat deposits.

The Wiki on “dry drunk” looks like it was written by AA.

These are just rural areas where people have put up a lot of buildings and decided to live close together.

They’re talking about the Alabama in between.

Ok, let us set aside the terminology, what “dry drunk means”.

Get onto :"Basically, the alcohol trapped in your fat deposits comes loose (presumably as your body metabolizes your stored fat). And then you are basically wasted, even if you haven’t touched the stuff. Even your breath reeks of it."

So yes, there is a rare syndrome https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auto-brewery_syndrome
Auto-brewery syndrome (ABS) (also known as gut fermentation syndrome , endogenous ethanol fermentation or drunkenness disease ) is a condition characterized by the fermentation of ingested carbohydrates in the gastrointestinal tract of the body caused by bacteria or fungi.[1] ABS is a rare medical condition in which intoxicating quantities of ethanol are produced through endogenous fermentation within the digestive system.[2] The organisms responsible for ABS include various yeasts and bacteria, including Saccharomyces cerevisiae , S. boulardii , Candida albicans , C. tropicalis , C. krusei , C. glabrata , C. kefyr , C. parapsilosis, Torulopsis glabrata, Klebsiella pneumoniae, and Enterococcus faecium .[1] These organisms use lactic acid fermentation or mixed acid fermentation pathways to produce an ethanol end product.[3] The ethanol generated from these pathways is absorbed in the small intestine, causing an increase in blood alcohol concentrations that produce the effects of intoxication without the consumption of alcohol.[4]

Researchers speculate the underlying causes of ABS are related to prolonged antibiotic use,[5] poor nutrition and/or diets high in carbohydrates,[6] and to pre-existing conditions such as diabetes and genetic variations that result in improper liver enzyme activity.[7] In the latter case, decreased activity of aldehyde dehydrogenase can result in accumulation of ethanol in the gut, leading to fermentation.[7] Any of these conditions, alone or in combination, could cause ABS, and result in dysbiosis of the microbiome.[5]

Claims of endogenous fermentation of this type have been used as a defense against drunk driving charges.[7]

ABS has nothing to do with fat, though. Or alcohol that was stored up being released. It’s about the body making (new) alcohol, and has nothing to do with having been an alcoholic.


Because the OP asked about release of a drug from fat causing impairment.