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Alcohol Tremors: Why Do I Shake After I Drink?

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Alcohol abuse can affect your body and mind in myriad ways. One impact that can be particularly worrisome is the onset of alcohol tremors. If you develop shakiness in your hands after you’ve been drinking, this could be a sign that you have become addicted to alcohol.

What Causes Alcohol Tremors?

The most common cause of alcohol tremors is withdrawal. 

When you develop alcohol use disorder (alcoholism), your body adapts to the presence of this substance in your system. When you abruptly stop drinking, your body may quickly respond with a variety of unpleasant physical and psychological symptoms. One such symptom is shakiness, or alcohol tremors.

You don’t have to make a conscious decision to quit drinking for good in order to experience alcohol tremors. These tremors can occur in the aftermath of a drinking binge, as your body tries to recalibrate itself. 

The fact that alcohol is a popular, legal substance can obscure the fact that it is also a toxin (or a poison). The impact of continued exposure to this toxin can include imbalances of vital neurotransmitters such as glutamate and gamma-aminobutyric acid (which is commonly referred to as GABA).

When you drink, alcohol can diminish the amount of GABA in your central nervous system. The reason this is problematic is that GABA has a calming effect. Glutamate, on the other hand, is more closely associated with excitability. After you’ve been drinking, as the alcohol begins to dissipate within your system, it can take time for your body to replenish its GABA supply. The effects of the imbalance between GABA and glutamate can include alcohol tremors.

When you develop a habit of drinking heavily and frequently, this imbalance can become more pronounced, which means that effects such as alcohol tremors can become more severe.

Are Alcohol Tremors the Same as the DTs?

The DTs (delirium tremens) are a collection of serious, potentially fatal, withdrawal symptoms that are associated with especially acute cases of alcoholism. Though shakiness can be a symptom of the DTs, experiencing alcohol tremors after a night of drinking is not the same thing as having the DTs.

Addiction experts estimate that about 3%-5% of people who become addicted to alcohol will experience delirium tremens when they try to quit drinking. In addition to severe tremors, other symptoms of the DTs include:

  • Profound confusion or disorientation
  • Anxiety and irritability
  • Racing heart rate
  • Hallucinations
  • Elevated body temperature
  • Excessive perspiration
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Seizure

Here are two statistics that underscore the dangers posed by the DTs and the value of seeking professional care:

  • The mortality rate may be as high as 15% among people who have the DTs, but who don’t get professional help. 
  • Among those who receive care in a reputable detoxification program or another appropriate environment, the rate of death due to the DTs falls to about 5%.

How Can You Tell if You’re Addicted to Alcohol?

As we noted at the top of this page, alcohol tremors after drinking can be a sign that you have developed alcoholism. If you think you have become addicted to alcohol, you should be assessed by a qualified healthcare professional who can provide you with an accurate diagnosis and recommend appropriate treatment options.

To decide if you should schedule an assessment, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Do you spend significant amounts of time acquiring, using, and recovering from the effects of alcohol?
  2. Have you failed to meet your responsibilities at home, in school, or at work because you were drinking?
  3. Do you feel like you need to use alcohol to experience joy or cope with sadness?
  4. Do you need to use alcohol to help you wake up in the morning or go to sleep at night?
  5. When you can’t drink, do you become angry, agitated, or irritated?
  6. Have you lied to or otherwise deceived friends or family members about how much or how often you drink?
  7. Have you continued to drink even after incurring physical, emotional, or social harm as a result of prior alcohol use?
  8. Has anyone in your life ever suggested that you might have a problem with alcohol?
  9. Have you tried to stop drinking, but discovered that you were unable to do so?
  10. Do you think you might be addicted to alcohol?

If you can honestly answer “yes” to any of these questions, you should seriously consider scheduling an alcohol addiction assessment. When you get the help you need, you can stop drinking, begin to heal from the harm that alcohol abuse has inflicted on your life, and establish a foundation for long-term recovery.

Find Treatment for Alcoholism in Nashville

Nashville Treatment Solutions is a respected provider of personalized care for adults who have become addicted to alcohol and other substances. Treatment options at our alcohol rehab in Nashville include detoxification, a partial hospitalization program (PHP), an intensive outpatient program (IOP), and a traditional outpatient program (OP). 

At every level of care, you can expect to receive customized services from a team of skilled and compassionate professionals. The members of your treatment team will encourage you to play an active role in all aspects of your care, so that you can take full ownership of your recovery journey.

Untreated alcoholism can be devastating. But when you choose Nashville Treatment Solutions, you can reconnect with the best version of yourself and resume your pursuit of a healthier and more hopeful future. To learn more or to schedule a free assessment, please visit our Admissions page or call our center today.