What Are Alcohol Tremors & What Causes Them?

When a heavy drinker, binge drinker, or someone else struggling with chronic or long-term abuse of alcohol tries to stop drinking, they are likely to experience tremors, which are also known as the “shakes”. Alcohol tremors are caused by many potential causes, but the most common are excessive alcohol use and acute alcohol withdrawal.

They are the result of involuntary muscle movements and cause the individual to shake or jitter considerably. The shaking that results from the tremors can be in just one area of the body, or it can happen in multiple body parts. The tremors can also be intermittent or occasional, or they can be constant. 

At their root, the alcohol tremors are caused by damage to the area of the brain that controls muscle movement and muscular coordination. Even though it may not be life-threatening if treated in time, it can be incredibly embarrassing and can even cause the individual to be considered disabled. 

This can happen when the tremors become too severe to allow the person to perform their functions of daily life. This is why it is incredibly important for someone who thinks they may be going through alcohol detox and is getting tremors to speak with a doctor or other medical professional.

Side-Effects of Alcohol Tremors

Since alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, it significantly slows down brain activity and causes a drop in energy levels. But those that consume large amounts of alcohol even semi-regularly, their body begins to adapt to that level of functionality as a baseline. 

This causes the brain to compensate for this sedation by releasing more of the excitatory neurotransmitters than it normally would, which then boosts the activity in the nervous system and keeps the body more awake. This change in brain chemistry is often why those that have been drinking heavily for long periods generally do not appear drunk.

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The side effects of the alcohol tremors can include a wide variety of symptoms, depending on the individual, their addiction and use profile, and more. The most common symptoms used for diagnosing the tremors include:

  • Tremors from alcohol withdrawal syndrome beginning as soon as 6 hours after the last drink, or even decrease in drinking, or sooner. The symptoms accompanying the tremors will often peak in severity within 24 to 72 hours and can continue for weeks depending on the individual.
  • There are many different types of tremors, largely classified by their source and appearance. Tremors that can be due to excessive alcohol use or withdrawal can include cerebellar tremors and enhanced physiology tremors.
  • The most apparent symptoms of alcohol tremors are a rhythmic shaking of the body or limbs, often the hands. This can lead to extensive challenges in writing, drawing, holding or controlling utensils, and even a shaky voice.
  • Alcohol tremors can be indicative of a more severe type of alcohol withdrawal called delirium tremens, or the DTs. The DTs are relatively rare, though, and are thought to happen in only about 5% or less of those who are going through alcohol withdrawals.
  • Alcohol tremors are generally diagnosed with information based on the individual’s medical background, history, as well as factors stemming from physical and neurological examinations.

Other symptoms of alcohol-related brain damage can include poor coordination, unsteady balance, general clumsiness, and even an unsteady gait. Some alcohol addicts also develop involuntary eye movements, called nystagmus, that make their eyes “shake” back and forth. 

Additionally, there can be damage to the peripheral nervous system, which can lead to numbness, muscle weakness, tingling, and even a burning sensation in the extremities that is known as peripheral neuropathy. This in combination with the consistently unsteady walking can result in severe and constant injury while trying to move about during daily activities.

While it is impossible to tell if any particular person will suffer from alcohol tremors during their alcohol withdrawal experience, it will be highly dependent on the level of chemical dependence that had been established before the treatment began. 

The initial symptoms of the alcohol tremors should be visible at some point between 6 and 48 hours following the discontinuation of alcohol. In some severe cases, the symptoms may present if the intake of alcohol is simply lowered enough, as many people are addicted heavily enough that even a minor adjustment can throw their bodies into chaos and begin causing tremors.

The symptoms will often reach their worst level of severity by the 24 to 72-hour mark, and it is during this time when users recovering from particularly heavy levels or prolonged periods of alcoholism can be at risk for alcohol withdrawal seizures. If the individual is going to experience delirium tremens, it will usually begin between 48 and 72 hours, and it can be fatal. DTs are a neurological condition that is marked by significant changes in mental status, and excitation of the autonomic nervous system.

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How To Get Help If Experiencing Alcohol Tremors

The side effects of alcohol tremors and the withdrawal that causes them can be potentially deadly for those that have a long history of drinking, or a history of drinking very large amounts of alcohol. This means anyone going through alcohol withdrawal should consult a doctor or medical professional first, and should only detox under sufficient medical supervision.

Seeking professional help can not only increase the chances of a safe detox with minimal health complications, but it can also lead to a more complete recovery process that helps the recovering individual be able to cope with potential triggers that may occur in daily life. 

Working with an experienced treatment center on a formal treatment plan that safely and thoroughly detoxes an individual off alcohol can equip the individual for a long-term recovery journey. This can help provide the individual with the techniques they need to avoid falling into the trap of alcoholism again, ensuring they can continue to live as happy and healthy of a life as possible.

You deserve to be start walking in the path of fulfillment, free from drugs. Reach out today so that you can be on the path to a healthier, more satisfying future right now.