Alcohol Tremors & Shakes – Symptoms of Alcohol Addiction

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Alcohol consumption is a widely accepted part of American culture. According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 85.6 percent of people over the age of 18 report drinking alcohol at least once in their lifetime, and 54.9 percent reported drinking at least once over the course of the past month. In 2019 roughly 25.8 percent of Americans over the age of 18 reported binge drinking at least once within the past month. 14.5 million Americans over the age of 12 struggled with a diagnosable alcohol use disorder during the same year. Only 7.2 of people who suffered from alcohol addiction sought any degree of professional help. Unfortunately, many people who struggle with alcoholism fail to seek help because they believe they can handle their drinking problem on their own, or because they are unaware of the recovery resources readily available to them. At Guardian Recovery we remain dedicated to providing people across the country with accessible and effective treatment options. We understand how difficult it can be to come to terms with alcohol addiction, and we know reaching out for professional help is not always easy. However, we believe the sooner alcohol addiction is treated, the less likely you are to suffer severe alcohol-related consequences — and the more likely you are to return to a state of healthy physical, mental and emotional functioning.

The symptoms of alcohol addiction vary on a person-to-person basis. Some people who struggle with alcoholism are able to hide the associated symptoms fairly well. Other people exhibit a range of physical and psychological symptoms which continue to worsen the longer they are left untreated. If you have been struggling with alcohol addiction, you might have noticed when you stop drinking for any period of time, you start experiencing tremors and shakes. Your hands shake uncontrollably and you experience body tremors until you are able to take your next drink. Experiencing alcohol-related tremors and shakes is not normal — in fact, it is a telltale sign that a diagnosable alcohol use has developed.

At Guardian Recovery we work with people of all ages and walks of life who have been misusing alcohol and who have had a difficult time quitting without professional help. We offer a multi-staged program of alcohol addiction recovery, one which includes medical detox, residential rehab and intensive outpatient treatment. If you are ready to reclaim your life and overcome alcohol addiction once and for all, contact us today.

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What Are Alcohol Shakes (Tremors)?

When a person has been misusing alcohol for a prolonged period of time, they might experience “alcohol shakes” when they cut back on the amount of alcohol they consume. Alcohol shakes, also known as body tremors, refers to uncontrollable shaking in one or more areas of the body. People with alcohol shakes often experience shaking or tremors in the extremities — most often in the fingers and hands. It can be all but impossible for a person who is struggling with alcohol dependence to hold their hands steady unless they are intoxicated. Alcohol-related shaking of the hands and other parts of the body can be extremely disruptive and can make it difficult to complete day-to-day tasks. This symptom of alcoholism can also be embarrassing. If you have experienced alcohol shakes you might sit on your hands in an attempt to control the shaking or hide the symptom from others. However, the only way to prevent this symptom from happening is by undergoing treatment and subsequently maintaining prolonged sobriety.

What Are the Causes of Alcohol Shakes?

What causes this uncontrollable and disruptive shaking? When you drink an excessive amount of alcohol, your body decreases the number of receptors which bind to the neurotransmitter GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid). At the same time, the body increases the number of receptors which bind to glutamate, another neurotransmitter. This is your body’s attempt to counteract the sedative effects of alcohol consumption and keep you alert and protected from harm. However, as the alcohol you have consumed is metabolized and absorbed or flushed through your system, the chemicals in your brain remain unbalanced. Your central nervous system and your sympathetic nervous system are all out of whack, and start responding with stress responses like increased heart rate, profuse sweating and body tremors. People who drink an excessive amount of alcohol often experience a severe hangover the next morning, and alcohol shakes are a common symptom associated with hangovers. However, alcohol shakes are also a telltale sign of alcohol dependence and withdrawal.

Are Alcohol Shakes Normal?

Alcohol shakes are a symptom of a serious internal issue, and while they are a common sign of alcohol misuse and dependence they are not — for all intents and purposes — “normal.” It can be easy to write off some symptoms of alcohol addiction, saying things like, “This happens to a lot of people I know, there’s really nothing to worry about.” Or, “This always happens when I drink too much, it’s not a big deal.” If you are experiencing the alcohol shakes or any other symptom of alcohol dependence, we encourage you to avoid brushing it off and instead consider whether or not professional treatment has become necessary. If you have been experiencing frequent and uncontrollable body tremors, it is a good indication some level of professional treatment is a good idea.

What You Can Do to Stop Alcohol Shakes & Tremors?

The most foolproof way to prevent alcohol shakes and tremors is by committing to a program of recovery. Maintaining sobriety is truly the only way to effectively treat the symptoms associated with alcohol dependence. Other methods of stopping alcohol shakes and tremors include:

  • Rehydrating – Alcohol is severely dehydrating, and alcohol shakes can be directly related to severe rehydration. Shakes and body tremors might lessen in severity if you cut out alcohol and stick to water or other hydrating beverages (like sports drinks) with added electrolytes.
  • Getting Enough Sleep – When there is alcohol present in the system the body and brain focus their energy on processing the alcohol, make it extremely difficult to rest or get a good night’s sleep. If you have been shaking uncontrollably you might want to cut back on drinking and ensure you are getting at least 8 hours of solid sleep every night.
  • Eating Nutritious Foods – Eat something calorie-dense and nutritious to increase your blood sugar. If you have been struggling with alcohol addiction there is a good chance you are malnourished. Taking care of yourself becomes extremely difficult when you focus all of your attention on obtaining alcohol, using alcohol and recovering from its effects.

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Why Do Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms Occur?

Once your central nervous system becomes accustomed to the presence of alcohol it goes into shock when the substance is removed. This is why alcohol withdrawal symptoms develop if you have been drinking heavily for an extended period of time.

The Most Common Symptoms Associated with Alcohol Withdrawal Include:

  • Uncontrollable shaking and body tremors
  • Severe anxiety and panic attacks
  • Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
  • Intense and persistent headaches
  • Profuse sweating/night sweats
  • Insomnia and other sleep-related issues
  • Intense alcohol cravings
  • In severe cases, grand mal seizures

Should You Try to Detox from Alcohol on Your Own?

Because there is no way to successfully treat symptoms of alcohol withdrawal on your own, and because symptoms can become life-threatening when left untreated, entering into a medical detox center is always recommended. You should never attempt to detox from alcohol on your own. At Guardian Recovery we have several detox centers throughout the country, geared towards providing clients with a safe and pain-free alcohol withdrawal while adequately preparing them for the next step in the recovery process. Contact us today to learn more.

Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline

The symptoms associated with alcohol withdrawal occur in several distinct stages. The duration of the alcohol withdrawal process depends on several factors, including age, weight, metabolism rate, the amount of alcohol being consumed and the frequency of use. When left untreated, the symptoms associated with alcohol withdrawal can be extremely uncomfortable and dangerous. In severe cases they can even be life-threatening. This is why attempting to detox on your own is never a good idea. If you are serious about overcoming alcohol addiction, we recommend entering into a medical detox program before the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal begin to take hold.

  • 8-12 Hours After the Last Drink – Symptoms begin to develop, and include headache, stomach upset, anxiety and restlessness.
  • 1-3 Days After the Last Drink – Symptoms peak in severity and include nausea and vomiting, extreme anxiety, increased blood pressure and heart rate and confusion.
  • 1-2 Weeks After the Last Drink – The more severe symptoms begin to subside, though cravings for alcohol persist.

How to Find Treatment for Alcohol Shakes and Tremors

If you have been experiencing alcohol shakes and tremors and you are pretty sure you have been suffering from a diagnosable alcohol use disorder, what steps can you take to find the treatment you need? We recommend contacting an addiction specialist in your area and learning about all potential options before making any definitive decisions. You are welcome to reach out to Guardian Recovery at any point in time to learn more about the addiction treatment options in your specific area.

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If you have been misusing alcohol and you have been struggling to quit on your own, Guardian Recovery is available to help. We treat alcohol addiction at its roots, beginning with the thorough and effective treatment of alcohol withdrawal symptoms and continuing with the next appropriate level of care. The moment you make the decision to reach out for help and contact us directly through our website or over the phone, you will be put in touch with one of our experienced Treatment Advisors. A Treatment Advisor will then walk you through our simple and straightforward admissions process. We begin with a brief pre-assessment which helps our clinical and medical team determine which treatment options are going to be the most beneficial for your unique case. We then offer a free, no obligation insurance benefit check and provide information on additional coverage options whenever necessary. Finally, we arrange local transportation to one of our medical detox or treatment centers. All you have to do is reach out for help, and we will take care of the rest. We look forward to speaking with you and answering any additional alcohol addiction questions you might have.


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Disclaimer: Does not guarantee specific treatment outcomes, as individual results may vary. Our services are not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis; please consult a qualified healthcare provider for such matters.


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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave


Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

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Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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