Alcohol Tremors Explained (Alcohol Shakes & What They Mean)
When a person goes through alcohol withdrawal, they may experience something called alcohol tremors, also known as alcohol shakes. Alcohol tremors usually happen when someone with chronic or long-term alcohol abuse quits drinking. Alcohol tremors can be quite annoying to deal with and can make doing simple life tasks more difficult.
Alcohol tremors can be debilitating and can make doing simple daily tasks much more difficult. So if you recently stopped drinking and are experiencing this involuntary shaking and trembling of your hands, it’s important to get them treated as quickly as possible before the tremors progress and alcohol withdrawal becomes severe.
In this blog post, we discuss alcohol withdrawal tremors, their associated symptoms and diagnosis, how to stop alcohol shakes, the difference between essential tremor and alcohol tremors, and more. Read the entire article from start to finish to find out more, or you can use the links below to skip to a section of your choice.
What Are Alcohol Tremors?
So first and foremost: What are tremors? Tremors are rhythmic, involuntary muscle contractions that can cause shaking in one or more parts of the body. Tremors, however, are different from alcohol tremors, which are caused by alcohol withdrawal.
Alcohol tremors are involuntary shaking/trembling of one or more parts of the body. Alcohol tremors are a response to alcohol withdrawal or alcohol use disorder/alcoholism. Alcohol shakes are typically present in the hands, but they may also appear in the arms or legs. They can happen on one or multiple parts of the body. They can also happen intermittently or be constant.
These shaky hands from alcohol can be quite debilitating and embarrassing to live with. Doing something simple, like writing or typing, with alcohol tremors becomes a lot more difficult. Alcohol tremors typically take effect around 6-8 hours after you finish drinking and peak around 10-30 hours after your last drink.
Alcohol tremors can also indicate a more severe form of alcohol withdrawal, called delirium tremens (DT’s). Delirium tremens is mainly characterized by tremors, hallucinations, disorientation, confusion, and increased heart rate/breathing rate/blood pressure. Delirium tremens is a much more serious form of alcohol tremors and usually appears a couple of days after someone ends an intense drinking binge. DT’s are especially common if you do not eat enough during your drinking binge or have a long history of alcoholism.
Unlike regular alcohol tremors, DT is a medical emergency and can be life-threatening if it’s not treated. DT’s are less common than regular alcohol tremors, occurring in about 5 percent of patients going through withdrawal. DT’S will typically appear around 2-4 days after a person’s last drink.
Causes Of Alcohol Tremors
There are two causes of alcohol tremors:
- Alcohol use disorder
- Alcohol withdrawal
The amount of alcohol that you need to consume to trigger alcohol withdrawal tremors differs for each person depending on various factors, such as how long you’ve been drinking, how much you normally drink, and if you have any other underlying health conditions.
Diagnosis Of Alcohol Tremors
It’s crucial to receive a proper tremor diagnosis from your doctor so that you can move forward with your treatment plan. In order to diagnose you with alcohol tremors, your doctor will need to perform a physical exam. Your doctor will also likely evaluate your medical history and may perform a neurological examination as well. The physical exam may reveal important indicators that what you’re dealing with is in fact alcohol tremors. This includes:
- Abnormal eye movements
- Abnormal heart rhythms
- Rapid breathing
- Rapid heart rate
- Shaky hands
Blood and urine tests may also be done to determine the amount of alcohol the person has consumed, as well as any other additional drugs that may be in their system. There is no way to know if you will experience alcohol tremors after drinking, but symptoms usually start around 6 hours after your last drink, which is good to keep in mind. Hand tremors from alcohol can last anywhere from a couple of days to several weeks, so it’s important to seek medical attention if your tremors do not go away or get worse over time.
How To Treat Alcohol Tremors
There are various ways you can go about treating alcohol tremors depending on the type and severity of your tremors. The first step in treating alcohol tremors is addressing the underlying issue, which is alcohol withdrawal. You’ll first need to detox from alcohol altogether in a healthy and effective manner. You should combat alcohol withdrawal in a professional rehab center, as quitting alcohol completely on your own can result in dangerous withdrawal symptoms.
The main goal of alcohol tremor treatment is to reduce your withdrawal symptoms, prevent any complications, and enroll in long-term treatment for alcoholism. If you undergo professional alcohol detox, you may be given certain medications to reduce symptoms, such as benzodiazepine, thiamine, or propranolol.
There are two different ways you can treat alcohol withdrawal: inpatient treatment and outpatient treatment. We will get into the differences between the two below.
For someone with moderate-to-severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms, inpatient treatment will likely be the best option. Inpatient treatment is when you are treated at a hospital or another professional setting that specifically handles alcohol withdrawal.
If you opt for inpatient treatment, you’ll be monitored for hallucinations or other signs of delirium tremens. Your blood pressure levels, body temperature, heart rate, and blood tests will also be carefully monitored. You will be given fluids by an IV and may be sedated with medication to ease the withdrawal symptoms.
For someone with mild-to-moderate alcohol withdrawal symptoms, outpatient treatment might be the best course of action. Outpatient treatment means you can stay at home during your recovery process, but you must have someone with you at all times who can keep an eye on you and monitor your behavior. You will also need to visit your doctor regularly.
If you opt for outpatient treatment, you’ll likely be given sedative drugs to take at home to ease withdrawal symptoms and have to get routine blood tests to make sure you’re staying on track. You may also need to get tested for other medical problems that could be connected to your alcohol abuse. Moving forward, you may also need to go to patient and family counseling to discuss your alcoholism.
Alcohol Tremors Vs. Essential Tremor
It’s important to note the differences between alcohol tremors vs. essential tremor (ET). Alcohol tremors are typically associated with other withdrawal symptoms. ET is associated with involuntary shaking and difficulty with daily tasks. Alcohol tremors are caused by alcohol misuse disorder and withdrawal, while ET is a neurological condition of unknown cause. Sometimes, small amounts of alcohol can temporarily reduce essential hand tremor. However, it is important not to use alcohol as a treatment for ET as those tremors can potentially worsen after alcohol is metabolized by the body. Treatment for alcohol tremors involves relieving withdrawal symptoms and detoxifying from alcohol. ET management may include surgery, physical therapy, medication, and other groundbreaking treatments, like Cala Trio therapy.
If you suffer from alcoholism and are going through alcohol withdrawal, it’s crucial to be aware that alcohol tremors are a potential side effect. Additionally, alcohol tremors may be a symptom of a more serious condition, like delirium tremens, which necessitate immediate medical attention. In order to treat alcohol tremors, you must first treat your alcohol withdrawal in a healthy and effective way.
If you suffer from essential tremor and are looking for an effective solution, check out Cala Trio therapy. The first-in-class Cala Trio therapy offers individualized treatment for hand tremors with a wrist-worn device that sends electrical stimulation to nerves in the wrist. This stimulation is believed to help with tremors by disrupting the network activity that causes them. The therapy is calibrated for your specific tremor and is part of an essential tremor treatment plan to help you manage symptoms.