Why Alcoholics Have Uncontrolled Shakes

Alcohol is pleasurable for people who meet for drinks with friends, but more than 50% of people struggling with alcohol addiction can suffer from “the shakes,” also called tremors, amongst other health issues. 

It is critical to understand the effects of these tremors, especially if binge drinking is common or if there is a struggle with drinking habits or alcohol addiction. Whether you are concerned with the frequency of your drinking or seeking information for family members, the following information will offer insight into the causes, symptoms, and treatment of alcohol-induced shakes.

Man with a bottle

Alcohol Use Disorder 

A mental health issue exhibiting a pattern of alcohol use that involves being preoccupied with alcohol, continuing to use alcohol even if it is causing problems, and difficulty with drinking regulation. Early stages of alcoholism include gaining a higher tolerance for alcohol.

Other symptoms of alcohol use mental disorders include binge drinking or withdrawal symptoms when you stop drinking. Those who abuse alcohol can have similar symptoms and neurological disorders as those who struggle with drug abuse. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism explains how brain activity is altered through substance abuse.

Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal

Many who struggle with alcohol addiction suffer from the shakes as a withdrawal symptom after alcohol leaves their system. When a person’s brain chemistry is altered by repeated alcohol use and they attempt to stop drinking, their body could respond with shakes. These alcohol shakes can be a sign of needing professional help, especially if the shakes are accompanied by other acute alcohol withdrawal symptoms, such as:

  • Sweating
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dehydration
  • Anxiety
  • Seizures
  • Irritability
  • Headaches 
  • Nightmares 
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Hallucinations 

Alcoholics shake because they have become physically dependent on alcohol. If someone is experiencing these or other alcohol withdrawal symptoms, especially after long-term alcohol abuse, they should contact a medical care provider immediately or go to a local emergency room. Dangerous withdrawal symptoms include a high temperature, hallucinating, irregular heartbeats, serious or significant confusion, or seizures. If you or someone you love is exhibiting signs of any of these withdrawals, call 911 immediately and seek alcohol and drug addiction treatment.

Delirium Tremens Symptoms

A severe form of alcohol withdrawal is called delirium tremens. When someone with chronic alcoholism who has abused alcohol long-term suddenly stops cold turkey, delirium tremens symptoms may begin within 48 hours. The symptoms could take place even 10 days after someone’s last drink. Delirium tremens can be life-threatening if not treated.

In addition to tremors, the signs to watch for with delirium tremens include:

  • Tremors
  • Disorientation 
  • Agitation 
  • Hallucinations 
  • Elevated temperature 
  • Heavy, prolonged sleep
  • Quick heartbeat
  • High blood pressure

What Causes The Shakes After Drinking Alcohol?

If you have been experiencing alcohol shakes and tremors after heavy drinking, there is a simple explanation for why.

Alcohol is a depressant. When you consume alcohol, your brain chemistry changes and become accustomed to having a low level of stimuli. Once you have your last drink, the depressant effect quickly wears off, and the nerve activity in the brain becomes exposed to a heavy stimulation load as the central nervous system enters overdrive, which causes body tremors.

Tremors depend on how much alcohol you are consuming. People who only drink on occasion are not likely to get alcohol tremors. Shakes typically only occur in people who have an alcohol dependence and are accustomed to consuming large amounts of alcohol daily. These tremors are a warning sign that their body may be dependent on alcohol intake.

What Else Could Cause Tremors

There are other conditions a heavy drinker should be aware of because a severe condition could develop if they are ignored.

Alcohol-related brain damage can cause the body to have “intention tremors.” These tremors are more apparent when a person attempts to make a deliberate movement. A person with alcohol-related brain damage could also exhibit unsteadiness, poor coordination, and flickering eye movements.

Liver problems such as liver disease, in its advanced stages, can cause a visible symptom called asterixis. This uncontrolled shaking hand movement, which looks like a bird flapping its wings, has also been known as “liver flap.” Hepatic encephalopathy (HE), which is a brain condition occurring in the later stages of liver disease, causes “liver flap.” 

Treatment Options to Manage Symptoms

It can be difficult to manage withdrawal symptoms on your own. A psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner at Synergy Mental Wellness can help you manage your alcohol-related symptoms. Contact us today using our confidential online form to discuss our specialized programs.