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Why Do Alcoholics Shake? Exploring Causes, Effects, and Treatment Options

by Demarco Moore

August 22, 2023
a man holds his shaking hands after going through alcohol withdrawal

Understanding Alcohol Shakes: A Comprehensive Guide for Alcoholics and Their Families

Drinking alcohol might bring pleasure, but for over 50% of those struggling with addiction, it can lead to body tremors or “shakes.” Understanding these tremors is critical to health and safety, especially if you binge drink or struggle with alcohol addiction. Whether you’re a social drinker or a family member seeking information, this blog offers insights into the causes, symptoms, and treatment of alcohol-induced tremors.

Editor’s note: This blog is for information only and doesn’t replace professional medical advice. For assistance, consult a healthcare professional or call Landmark Recovery at 888-448-0302.

Why Do Alcoholics Shake?

Alcohol-induced tremors, or “shakes,” are neurological conditions caused by the substance’s effect on the nervous system. Whether it’s social drinking, binge drinking, or chronic alcoholism, excessive consumption can lead to these tremors. They can appear as early as 6 hours after drinking and might last for days.

The Science Behind Alcohol-Related Tremors

Heavy drinking can cause temporary body shakes for social or occasional drinkers as the body metabolizes (breaks down) alcohol. When alcohol interferes with the nervous system, it interrupts the balance of neurotransmitters that control muscle movement. This imbalance is what can cause the body to shake uncontrollably.

The central nervous system gets “excited,” leading to tremors until the alcohol leaves the system. Alcohol shakes aren’t a sign of weakness but a sign that could lead to health complications.

Alcohol Shakes and Withdrawal

For those with alcohol addiction, shakes are a common withdrawal symptom. If your brain develops tolerance after repeated use and you stop drinking, it could respond with body shakes. This can be a sign that you need professional help, especially if other withdrawal symptoms accompany your shaking, like:

Where Alcohol Shakes Happen in the Body

Alcohol-induced shakes or tremors usually happen in the hands and arms but can also affect the head, tongue, and other body parts. Research has found that these tremors peak 10 to 30 hours after the last drink and can last for days. The body’s reaction to alcohol’s absence can be painful and dangerous, highlighting the importance of seeking medical support.

How are Alcoholic Tremors Diagnosed?

A medical professional usually identifies tremors with a physical exam and questions about drinking habits. Blood tests can also help diagnose the root causes of alcohol tremors. If these symptoms persist, speaking with a healthcare provider is essential. Why? Self-diagnosis can lead to misunderstandings and complications.

Understanding the Connection Between Alcohol Shakes and Delirium Tremens

Delirium Tremens (DTs) is a grave condition, representing a severe form of alcohol withdrawal. It’s characterized by not only tremors but also:

  • Hallucinations
  • Confusion
  • Agitation

This withdrawal stage can last up to 4 days and be life-threatening if not urgently treated.

Are you or a loved one struggling with alcohol abuse? Understanding the signs of alcohol withdrawal is crucial. Delirium Tremens (DTs) is a severe condition that can happen if you suddenly stop drinking. It’s more than shakes—DTs can be life-threatening. Here are the signs:

  • Confusion and Hallucinations: It’s not just a feeling of being lost; you might see or hear things that aren’t there during the DTs.
  • Shakes and Tremors: DTs aren’t ordinary alcohol shakes. They’re intense and can spread throughout the body.
  • Serious Health Risks: Without professional help, DTs can lead to heart problems and even death.

Of the many who abuse alcohol, only 3% to 5% will face DTs. It’s been known since 1813 and can show up as soon as two days after stopping drinking. Without treatment, the mortality rate can be as high as 37%.

If you or someone you care about is showing signs of DTs, don’t wait. Seek immediate medical help or reach out to Landmark Recovery today at 888-448-0302.

Alcohol Shakes and Associated Risks

Alcohol doesn’t just cause shakes; it’s linked to other risks too. Let’s explore:

  • Link Between Mixing Substances: Mixing alcohol with drugs like melatonin is dangerous. It can lead to unexpected reactions, like increased drowsiness and liver problems, and increase the risk of addiction and overdose.
  • Other Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms: Shakes are just one sign of withdrawal symptoms. Nausea, sweating, and anxiety are also common during withdrawal. It illustrates how alcohol withdrawal impacts the body.
  • Risks of Self-Medicating with Alcohol: Turning to alcohol for comfort? It might ease stress momentarily, but self-medicating can lead to dependency and health issues.
  • Social, Legal, and Employment Problems: Alcohol can ruin lives. Marriage problems, arrests, and job loss are some examples. The damage is often more serious than we realize.

Knowing the risks helps you make informed choices. It’s more than shakes and tremors; alcohol affects lives deeply.

Alcohol Treatment and Recovery Options at Landmark Recovery

Struggling with alcohol shakes or tremors? Consider professional help. At Landmark Recovery, we understand that every person’s recovery journey is personal. That’s why we provide the following alcohol treatment options:

  • Detoxification: Alcohol withdrawal can cause shakes, and our medical team is here to support you 24/7. With monitored detoxification, we manage symptoms and keep you comfortable.
  • Alcohol Rehab Programs: Inpatient or outpatient, we have rehab options to fit your needs. Our residential treatment plans are tailored to help you break free from alcohol addiction.
  • The benefit of Outpatient and Inpatient Rehab: Professional rehab centers offer flexible options for your recovery. Whether you need intensive care or want to balance treatment with daily life, Landmark Recovery covers your journey.

What to do if you Shake Uncontrollably After Drinking

Alcohol shakes aren’t just a personal struggle; they affect families, jobs, and more. With professional support, recovery is possible. Landmark Recovery’s expert medical team provides compassionate care tailored to each individual’s needs. Whether persistent shakes or a loss of control, recovery starts with a single step.

Don’t let Alcohol Dictate Your Life. Take Control Today.

For confidential support and to learn about our specialized programs, call our Patient Navigators at 888-448-0302, available anytime, day or night. Start your recovery journey today.

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About the Author

Demarco Moore

Demarco Moore

A graduate of Middle Tennessee State University, Demarco Moore currently writes blogs about drug addiction treatment and recovery to help save lives at treatment provider Landmark Recovery. Before that, he cut his teeth as a sports writer at the Manchester Times, where his coverage and stories won Tennessee Press Association awards in 2016 and 2017.

He’s always had a knack for storytelling. Moore’s written content for junior golf tournaments and helped to amplify the “People Not Profits” message of credit unions. When he’s not writing, Moore loves to travel, laugh and put his mental health into the hands of the Tennessee Titans during football season.