Addiction Rehab: What to Expect

If you drink alcohol on a regular basis, you may notice that you have begun to experience uncontrollable tremors and shakes in your hands in the days and even hours since your last drink.

While this symptom is easy to brush off, these tremors could point towards a potential physical addiction to alcohol and in severe cases can affect the entire body, preventing you from carrying out everyday tasks and activities.

Shakes and tremors are a sign that your body is reacting to the alcohol leaving the system, and needs to physically change the way it works in order to function without alcohol.

What causes tremors and shakes after drinking alcohol?

Alcohol has a depressive and sedative effect that can slow down the body’s functioning, making people feel tired and lethargic.

To compensate the brain will begin to work harder in order to continue functioning despite the sedative effects of the alcohol, releasing additional chemicals and neurotransmitters that keep the brain and body in a hyper-alert state. [1]

When the alcohol intake is suddenly reduced or taken away entirely the brain and body are not able to instantly adapt and slow down their functioning, which can result in a number of alcohol withdrawal symptoms such as tremors and shakes.

Tremors are caused by the part of the brain that controls muscle movements, and this is one of the affected areas that remains in an overexcited state after the alcohol intake has been removed.

This manifests in uncontrollable tremors and shakes that are most commonly seen in the hands and arms but can be present throughout the entire body in severe cases.

If someone consumes small amount of alcohol on an infrequent basis, they are unlikely to experience tremors after drinking. Therefore, the presence of shakes and tremors may indicate a potential addiction and should not be dismissed.

What are the most common symptoms of alcohol addiction?

It can be difficult to recognise the signs of addiction within yourself, as your behaviour can become normalised and the negative changes can creep in so gradually that you may not notice until you are trapped in a vicious cycle of alcohol abuse.

If you have noticed that you suffer from tremors and shakes after drinking alcohol, you may be concerned that you have developed a physical dependency.

There are a number of clear signs that can indicate a potential addiction to alcohol, including the inability to stop drinking to excess as well as developing a tolerance to this substance. If you recognise your own behaviour in the below symptoms, it is recommended that you consider seeking help for your alcohol use.

Common symptoms of alcohol addiction include:

  • Needing to drink more alcohol on a more frequent basis in order to experience the same effects
  • Intense cravings to drink alcohol that feel impossible to ignore
  • Neglecting responsibilities at home, work and school due to your alcohol use
  • Feeling out of control with your alcohol consumption
  • Lack of interest in hobbies and activities that you previously enjoyed
  • Attempting to reduce or completely stop your alcohol intake but being unable to do so
  • Experiencing negative consequences due to your alcohol use but continuing to drink
  • Regularly drinking above the recommended daily limit
  • Frequently drinking to the point of being intoxicated, even when you don’t want to
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you attempt to reduce or completely stop your alcohol intake

It is important that you seek professional advice and guidance if you believe that you are struggling with alcohol addiction, particularly if you already experience tremors and shakes after drinking.

Attempting to reduce or completely stop your alcohol intake can result in a number of dangerous withdrawal symptoms, and these could result in serious illness or even death if not properly managed.

What are the most common symptoms of alcohol withdrawal?

The brain and body are extremely adaptable, with the ability to change the way they function depending on your current behaviour and needs.

If you drink large amounts of alcohol on a regular basis over a long period of time, your brain and body begin to work harder in order to continue functioning despite the strong sedative effects of the alcohol.

When the amount of alcohol is suddenly reduced or taken away completely, your body and brain are left in an overexcited and hard-working state with no warning or time to adapt to this new chemical imbalance. As a result, alcohol withdrawal symptoms are likely to appear. [2]

Each person experiences the process of alcohol withdrawal differently depending on the severity of their addiction, previous history of detoxification and their general physical and mental health.

In most people, withdrawal begins around six hours after the last drink and will continue for up to 72 hours before lessening and abating.

Common symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include:

  • Tremors and shakes
  • Dilated pupils
  • Intense cravings for alcohol
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Frequent mood swings
  • Disorientation
  • Feeling exhausted and lethargic
  • Insomnia and nightmares
  • Excessive perspiration
  • Increased heart rate
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Lack of appetite

While the majority of the above symptoms are merely unpleasant and are not necessarily life-threatening, even the most mild withdrawal symptoms can become severe very quickly and in some cases they can develop into delirium tremens – the most severe form of alcohol withdrawal.

Are tremors a symptom of delirium tremens?

While mild tremors in the hands and arms are a fairly common alcohol withdrawal symptom, more intense tremors throughout the body can be a sign of delirium tremens particularly if they affect everyday activities such as writing, holding utensils or driving.

In some cases, tremors can result in a shaky voice and difficulty speaking.

Delirium tremens is the most severe form of alcohol withdrawal and can result in serious illness or even death if not promptly treated.

Around 5% of people who go through the process of alcohol withdrawal will experience delirium tremens, and it is more likely to occur if you have a past history of severe withdrawal symptoms along with poor general health and a history of excessive alcohol consumption. [3]

Common symptoms of delirium tremens include:

  • Severe tremors and shakes throughout the body
  • High fever
  • Extreme confusion
  • Feeling agitated
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Visual, auditory and tactile hallucinations
  • Psychosis
  • Seizures

There are around 20 different types of tremors that can occur in the body, with certain forms specific to alcohol withdrawal including cerebellar tremor and enhanced physiologic tremor. These tremors are usually uncontrollable and may prevent you from carrying out everyday activities until they pass.

If you notice that you are experiencing severe, noticeable tremors throughout your body after drinking alcohol then it is recommended that you seek medical treatment immediately as this could be a symptom of delirium tremens.

Even if you only experience mild tremors, this is still a potential sign of addiction and you should consider reducing or completely stopping your alcohol intake with the help of medical professionals.