Shaking From Alcohol Withdrawal

  1. Article SummaryPrint
  2. Symptoms of Alcoholic Shakes
  3. Why Shaking Occurs
  4. When Shaking Occurs
  5. Other Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
  6. Delirium Tremens
  7. Treating Alcoholic Shaking

Shaking from alcohol withdrawal is one of the major withdrawal symptoms that occurs when you stop taking this substance. In some cases, the trembling is so light that only the person who is suffering from it notices the shaking. In other cases, the shaking is extremely noticeable to everyone around the person. Shaking from alcohol withdrawal typically only develops in someone who is an alcohol abuser or addict, not in individuals who occasionally drink small amounts of alcohol.

"Shaking from alcohol withdrawal is one of the major withdrawal symptoms that occurs when you stop taking this substance." If you or someone you know regularly experiences shaking from alcohol withdrawal and wants to learn how to detoxify from alcohol, call 1-800-928-9139 to speak to a trained referral counselor today.

Symptoms of Alcoholic Shakes

Someone who is experiencing shaking from alcoholic withdrawal may notice the following signs:

  • Rhythmic shaking of the hands, arms, head or other areas of the body
  • A shaky voice
  • Difficulty writing or drawing
  • Difficulty holding things, such as utensils, with the hands

Why Shaking Occurs

ShakingAlcoholism and alcohol abuse cause tremors in different ways. In many cases, shaking from alcohol withdrawal is a physiologic tremor, which will disappear after the individual is finished with the withdrawal process. Extreme emotions can increase physiologic tremors, so if the person is nervous or anxious about withdrawal and detox, the trembling might be stronger. Shaking from alcohol withdrawal may occur because the nerve cells are damaged due to alcohol use. This type of nerve damage commonly occurs in the hands of alcoholics. Chronic alcoholism can also cause damage to the cerebellum of the brain, which may lead to episodes of shaking even after withdrawal is complete.

About 17 percent of alcohol users are addicted to or abuse this substance, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

When Shaking Occurs

Someone can develop alcoholic shakes within five to 10 hours of the last drink. The likelihood and severity of alcoholic tremors are increased in individuals who drink more frequently and in higher amounts. Shaking, along with other withdrawal symptoms, may continue for up to a few weeks. Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, including shaking, are typically strongest 48 to 72 hours after the person had his or her last drink.

Other Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

In addition to shaking from alcohol withdrawal, there are many other signs of withdrawal that recovering alcoholics go through. Some of the additional symptoms of withdrawal include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Muddled thinking
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Mood swings
  • Nightmares
  • Dilated pupils
  • Headache
  • Insomnia
  • Clammy skin
  • Sweating
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Pale skin


Delirium Tremens

In some cases, severe shaking can be a sign of a more serious withdrawal reaction. This condition, called delirium tremens, causes whole-body tremors along with other symptoms. This form of withdrawal reaction generally starts two to three days after the last drink, although it can take up to a week to develop. Signs that a recovering alcoholic is going through delirium tremens include:

  • Severe confusion
  • Agitation
  • Hallucinations
  • Fever
  • Deep sleep that lasts a day or more
  • Sensitivity to light and sound
  • Seizures

"...severe shaking can be a sign of a more serious withdrawal reaction."
Because delirium tremens can be extremely dangerous, people who experience this type of withdrawal reaction should be placed under immediate medical care. During treatment for delirium tremens, the patient may need to be placed under sedation and have his or her breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure monitored throughout the entire withdrawal process. Some individuals need emergency life support.

About 5 percent of people who undergo alcohol withdrawal develop delirium tremens, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Treating Alcoholic Shaking

private rehabTreating alcoholic shaking is part of the process of treating alcohol withdrawal. When someone enters treatment for alcoholism or alcohol abuse, detoxification is the first stage of the treatment program. During detoxification from alcohol, withdrawal symptoms often develop because the body is completely deprived of alcohol. Many recovering alcoholics prefer to complete this phase at a hospital or private rehabilitation clinic. At a hospital or private facility, medical staff are on hand to help you through the withdrawal symptoms, including controlling shaking from alcohol withdrawal. Medication, such as benzodiazepines, may help relieve trembling and other withdrawal symptoms, so a doctor at the rehab center or hospital may prescribe medication for a patient during the detoxification phase.

After the initial withdrawal symptoms have subsided, you will also need to enter into a long-term treatment program that will help you stay clean and sober for life. For a free referral to the best private inpatient clinic in your area for treating alcoholism and alcohol abuse, call 1-800-928-9139.