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Why am I Shaking After Drinking Alcohol?

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Medically Reviewed By: Diana Vo, LMFT

March 4, 2024 (Originally Published)

March 5, 2024 (Last Updated)

Table of Contents

Shaking after alcohol consumption commonly occurs in those who quit drinking after prolonged or heavy use of alcohol. Not everyone discontinuing alcohol experiences shaking from alcohol withdrawal, although it is relatively commonplace. The severity and nature of shaking from alcohol differs widely, with some people finding alcohol shaking painful or uncontrollable.

Heavy alcohol consumption leads to inflammation within the CNS (central nervous system). Shaking after alcohol may emerge as the sedative impact of alcohol diminishes, resulting in heightened brain activity. Individuals diagnosed with alcohol use disorder – the clinical term for alcoholism – may also encounter these tremors during hangover periods. Read on to learn more about alcohol and shaking.

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Alcoholic Shaking

Alcoholic shaking, also known as alcoholic tremors, is a common sign of withdrawal that can present in individuals who stop or drastically decrease their intake of alcohol. Tremors most frequently manifest as alcohol withdrawal shaking hands.

The intensity of alcohol withdrawal shaking varies from person to person. While some may experience only a slight, barely perceptible alcohol hand shaking, others might endure more severe tremors that are painful and can be disruptive to functioning.

Alcohol tremors can be triggered by a variety of factors, primarily stemming from the impact of alcohol on the body and its interaction with the CNS. The main reasons for alcohol-induced shakes are the symptoms of withdrawal from alcohol and damage to the brain related to alcohol consumption.

Tremors from alcohol withdrawal occur as the influence of alcohol on the CNS diminishes, leading to a surge in activity within the central nervous system that can overwhelm the brain. This surge may result in the brain dispatching incorrect signals to the nerves controlling the hands, resulting in tremors in the hands and fingers.

Alcohol acts as a depressant of the CNS, reducing the activity of nerves in the brain and affecting neurotransmitters like GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) and glutamate that govern mood regulation. Consumption of alcohol leads to a decreased sensitivity of the receptors that GABA binds to, and an increased sensitivity of the receptors for glutamate. GABA serves to inhibit nerve communication, while glutamate enhances the body’s stress responses, including:

  • Sweating
  • Heart rate
  • Shakes
  • Tremors

Chronic heavy drinking conditions the brain to a perpetual state of dampened activity and to a disrupted chemical balance. As the body processes and eliminates alcohol, communication via GABA remains suppressed, while glutamate communication stays elevated, triggering an excessive amount of brain activity. This hyperactivity in the CNS can manifest as uncontrollable shaking hands alcohol, or in some cases even alcohol shaking body. These tremors can begin as early as eight hours after the last alcoholic drink, with the intensity of symptoms varying based on the volume of alcohol consumed and the frequency of consumption.

Beyond this, chronic alcohol consumption can damage the brain and central nervous system. This damage can impede the brain’s ability to communicate properly with muscles and nerves, provoking symptoms like alcohol abuse shaking hand or fingers.

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How to Stop Shaking After Drinking Alcohol

For individuals experiencing alcohol-induced shakes, achieving stability and relief is paramount. Gradually reducing or discontinuing alcohol consumption under medical supervision is recommended, while other strategies can mitigate the severity of shakes and improve overall well-being. These include:

  • Hydration and nutrition: Proper hydration and nutrition can help in alleviating symptoms associated with alcohol tremors. Replenishing the body with fluids and consuming balanced, nutrient-dense meals can help stabilize blood sugar levels and correct imbalances in electrolytes, which are often disrupted by excessive alcohol intake.
  • Supplemental support: Certain vitamins can aid in the recovery process. Vitamins in the B-complex group, especially B1 (thiamine), B3 (niacin), and B6 (pyridoxine), play key roles in neurological health and may help diminish tremors. Magnesium and potassium supplements can also support muscle function and maintain electrolyte balance. Consult with a healthcare professional before beginning any supplement regimen to ensure its appropriateness and effectiveness, though.
  • Stress reduction techniques: Implementing stress reduction techniques like deep breathing exercises, meditation, or mindfulness can help soothe the CNS and decrease the frequency and intensity of tremors triggered by alcohol. These practices support mental clarity and calm, aiding in the restoration of normal neurological functions.
  • Regular exercise: Engaging in regular exercise can reduce the intensity of alcohol tremors. Opting for light to moderate activities like yoga, walking, or gentle stretching can boost overall physical and mental health by improving circulation and triggering endorphin release, contributing to stress reduction and relaxation.
  • Medical consultation and treatment: Seeking professional medical advice can help those with severe or persistent tremors. A healthcare provider can conduct a comprehensive assessment, offer personalized treatment plans, and monitor progress throughout recovery. Medications may be prescribed to manage symptoms and streamline the adjustment to reduced alcohol consumption.

Getting Help for Alcohol Dependence

Seeking assistance for alcohol dependence is a fundamental step toward sustained recovery and regaining control over life. Recognizing the need for help is the first and often the most challenging step. Here are some pointers to ease this:

Understanding when to ask for help

It’s important to first acknowledge the signs of alcohol dependence, which can include a strong craving for alcohol, continued use despite adverse outcomes, inability to control drinking, and experiencing withdrawal symptoms like tremors when not drinking. If alcohol consumption is affecting your health, relationships, work, or daily life, it might be time to seek professional help.

Exploring treatment options

There are many different pathways to recovery from alcohol dependence, ranging from detoxification and medication to therapy and support groups. Treatment can be tailored to individual needs and may involve inpatient or outpatient therapy. Professional help often starts with a thorough assessment to determine the most effective approach for each person.

Detoxification and medical support

Detoxification is often the first formal step in treating alcohol dependence, helping to safely manage withdrawal symptoms under medical supervision. Depending on the severity of the dependence, medications may be prescribed to ease withdrawal symptoms and support recovery. While detox addresses the issue of alcohol dependence, ongoing treatment is required to tackle the psychological component of alcohol use disorder.

Counseling and behavioral therapies

Counseling and behavioral therapies are core components of treatment, helping people understand the root causes of their addiction, develop coping strategies, and build a supportive network. These therapies can take various forms, including individual therapy, group therapy, and family therapy, each offering different benefits.

Support groups and community resources

Support groups like AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) and SMART Recovery provide a sense of community and mutual support, offering a safe space for people to share experiences and recovery strategies. Local community resources may also offer additional support, from educational workshops to social services.

Making lifestyle changes

Recovery from alcohol dependence often involves making major lifestyle changes. This can include developing healthy coping mechanisms, engaging in physical activity, pursuing hobbies and interests, and establishing a more supportive social network.

Aftercare and relapse prevention

Recovery is a continuous process that requires ongoing support and dedication. Relapse prevention strategies, ongoing therapy, and support groups can help people maintain sobriety and prevent relapse.

Seeking help for alcohol dependence is a brave and life-changing decision. With the right support and treatment, anyone can overcome dependence, rebuild their lives, and embark on a path to recovery and wellness.

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Get Help Quitting Alcohol at Renaissance Recovery

If you feel that you’re drinking too much and you need help, reach out to Renaissance for guidance and compassionate, evidence-based treatment.

Alcohol withdrawal can be dangerous and potentially life-threatening for those at risk of severe withdrawal. If you need help detoxing from alcohol safely, we can connect you with medical detox centers so you can address the issue of alcohol dependence and prepare yourself for ongoing treatment at our beachside rehab in Huntington Beach, California.

We treat alcohol addictions in an outpatient setting, allowing people to get the help they need to stop drinking without needing to spend a month or more away from home. We offer more intensive outpatient treatment programs for those who required a more structured and supportive route to recovery.

All alcohol addictions are unique, so all treatment programs at Renaissance reflect this. You can access the following therapies:

If you or someone that you care about needs help tackling alcohol addiction, call 866.330.9449.

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Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.

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