Alcohol Tremors and Other Withdrawal Symptoms

Shaking hands are just one symptom of alcohol withdrawal.

It is a wake up call, that day when you first notice the hand tremors. Up until that day, it might have been easy to deny that you had a drinking problem. You function just fine. You show up to work and you pay your bills. But that day, the day the hand tremors began, was a turning point.

Alcohol tremors are a common symptom seen in people who are having withdrawal symptoms. This is the telltale sign that the brain has come to expect daily alcohol intake. By then, neural pathways have been altered based on heavy alcohol consumption. So, when you attempt to not drink, like during work hours, the body becomes unstable, leading to tremors. Learn about the stages of alcoholism and how they impact the brain and body.

About Alcohol Tremors

Once the brain has been altered in response to the effects of alcohol, it can lead to dependency. This means that attempts to quit drinking, or even just cutting back, may be met with withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms are the result of the body trying to function without the alcohol intake it is used to.

The tremors are just one of the overt signs of AUD. The tremors are mainly noticed in the hands, but they can also engulf the body. It is thought that the tremors are caused by the absence of the depressant. The alcohol had had a sedative effect on the central nervous system. When the alcohol is withheld the signal between the brain and the central nervous system that controls muscle movement becomes disrupted.

Signs of Alcoholism

An AUD tends to creep up slowly. What had started as a relaxing drink after work may have turned into 3 or 4 drinks over time. As tolerance increased, the need to drink more to achieve the same results also increased. Some of the warning signs of an AUD include:

  • Drinking alone. 
  • Having blackouts.
  • Obsessed about drinking.  
  • Lying about your drinking. 
  • Avoiding social events.
  • Cannot control drinking. 
  • Relationships suffering.
  • Increased tolerance.
  • Trouble with the law. 
  • Negative consequences mount.
  • Changes in appearance. 
  • Increased cravings. 
  • Withdrawal symptoms. 

Noting these signs, and then acting on it, is the first step in admitting you have a problem with alcohol.

3 Stages of Alcoholism

When alcohol intake is not controlled, it can turn into alcohol dependency or addiction. An AUD will progress over time, going through three stages:

  1. Early stage. In the early stage, it is not always clear that there is a problem. The person seems to be functioning just fine. The problem of drinking may have started as an attempt to manage stress. As tolerance builds, the drinking increases. This leads to more signs that there is a drinking problem. Symptoms may include cravings, being unable to control intake, and increased amounts of alcohol consumed.
  2. Middle stage. At this stage it becomes noticed by others that there is a problem. The person may have blackouts after bouts of heavy drinking. They may have mood swings, be irritable, and have stomach distress. Bloating and weight gain or loss are also signs of middle stage alcoholism. Alcohol cravings become more intense, and the person becomes obsessed about when they can drink next. At this stage, there may be relationship problems, money problems due to job loss, and possibly a DUI. When attempting to withhold alcohol, withdrawal symptoms like the tremors will break through.
  3. Late stage. Late stage, or end stage alcoholism features a loss of control over the substance. Major negative life events begin to mount. These may include a job loss, relationship turmoil, child custody issues, money problems, and legal issues. Health is now poor, with nutrient deficiencies, liver disease, pancreas disease, and even brain damage present. When alcohol is withheld highly unpleasant symptoms emerge. Alcohol now consumes the person’s life in every way.

Key to surviving an AUD is catching the disease in the early stage. If you embrace sobriety early on, much of the damage can be reversed.

What Happens When You Drink

Alcohol impacts the major organs via the bloodstream. When you consume alcohol it becomes absorbed in the stomach and then enters the bloodstream. The liver breaks down a certain level of alcohol per hour. This is about one standard drink per hour for men, or in two hours for a woman.

When you consume more alcohol per hour than your body can safely manage, it can become toxic. This can result in alcohol poisoning, which is a health emergency. Long-term heavy drinking is very hard on the body, leading to severe health issues over time.

What to Expect in Alcohol Detox

Detox is the first step in breaking free from an AUD. Detox takes about one week to complete and will involve some discomfort. Medical interventions are offered to reduce withdrawal symptoms and ease the detox process. Symptoms include:

  • Tremors
  • Sweating or night sweats
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Agitation
  • Irritability
  • Headache
  • Increased heart rate.
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Increased blood pressure.

Alcohol detox should always be monitored by an expert detox team. This is because, in someone with a long history of alcoholism, there is the chance that the DTs could emerge. This is a serious event that requires quick medical treatment in about 5% of those going through detox.

After the detox phase is over, the rehab phase is next. These treatment programs, either outpatient or inpatient, help you make lasting changes in the way you respond to triggers. New thought patterns become helpful new habits that can help you sustain sobriety over the long term.


Day Treatment

The Day Treatment Program involves attending the recovery program for 7 hours each day, Monday through Friday. This is an intensive, focused program involving education groups, therapy groups, family program and individual counseling.


Intensive Outpatient (IOP)

The Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) involves attending the recovery program for 3.5 hours each day for at least 3 days a week. Many times this is a "Step-Down" Level-of-Care from residential treatment or day treatment programs.


Extended Treatment

Our SLE is more than a drug-free environment. It is a 12-Step oriented, program-approach sober living home. It is designed for individuals who are committed to their sobriety. Our SLE program provides the elements that are essential for making the changes necessary for continuous recovery. The SLE is located in a quiet residential neighborhood near parks, walking trails, shopping centers and buses.