Alcohol shakes are involuntary tremors a person experiences when dealing with long-term or chronic alcohol addiction. The tremors can occur in multiple areas of the body simultaneously, or be localized to just one area. These shakes are believed to be caused by either acute alcohol withdrawal or excessive alcohol use.
These tremors are not life-threatening, but they can be disabling or embarrassing to someone suffering from them. They develop as prolonged alcohol abuse takes its effect on the portion of the brain that controls muscle function.
Diagnosing Alcohol Shakes
According to experts, there are more than 20 types of tremors possible. The ones most closely-related to alcohol withdrawal are cerebellar tremors and physiologic tremors. Tremors are diagnosed based on a patient’s medical history and medical examination. A patient will undergo a thorough neurological examination before a tremor diagnosis can be made.
Symptoms of Alcohol Shakes
The symptoms of tremors include: a rhythmic shaking of the body, trouble controlling utensils, a shaky voice, and trouble writing or drawing. In approximately 5% of patients suffering from alcohol shakes, the tremors can be a sign of a more serious form of alcohol withdrawal called delirium tremens or DTs.
Depending on the severity of the alcohol withdrawal, these symptoms can start to manifest 6 hours after the user’s last drink. The peak of withdrawal symptoms typically occurs 24-72 hours after the last drink and can last several weeks.
Can Withdrawal Symptoms Be Predicted
It’s almost impossible to know whether a particular person will experience withdrawal symptoms or not. It all depends on the level of physical dependence a person has. Symptoms can range anywhere from mild to severe and last anywhere from hours to weeks.
In severe cases, a former user may even develop alcohol seizures. These are a more escalated form of alcohol shakes and generally develop between 6 and 48 hours after stopping or reducing drinking.
The Risk of DTs
DTs are said to develop in only about 5% of users suffering from alcohol withdrawal. A history of DTs, history of seizures, past detoxification, and a long period of time since their last drink may increase the risk of DTs.
Other symptoms of DTs include: fever, agitation, confusion, severe body tremors, hallucinations, rapid heart beat, high blood pressure, severe sweating, and anxiety.
Other Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
In addition to tremors, people tapering off their usage of alcohol may suffer from: irritability, agitation, increased heart rate, high blood pressure, and anxiety.
Depending on how severe the physical dependency is in a person, these symptoms can be physically dangerous. For this reason, it’s important for a person to explore all of their options when stopping alcohol abuse, and make sure they choose a program to help themselves detox safely.
Causes of Alcohol Withdrawal
Alcohol is so disruptive because it interrupts the chemistry of the brain. It can affect the function of receptors in the brain known as gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors. GABA receptors are responsible for setting the baseline level of neural activity in the central nervous system.
Alcohol turns down the effectiveness of these GABA receptors in the brain. After prolonged use, the alcohol eventually causes the brain to produce less GABA receptors due to decreased CNS activity. Over time, this effect on the brain chemistry achieves a state of tolerance within the user.
When in a state of tolerance, the user needs more alcohol than before to achieve the same desired effect. From tolerance, it is easy to slip into a state of dependence.
Difference Between Tolerance and Dependence
Tolerance and dependence often go hand-in-hand. Tolerance can be the gateway to dependence although it has no physical symptoms. Just a need for more alcohol than the time before.
Dependence is when we start to see physical withdrawal symptoms come to the surface. Because alcohol has been working on the GABA receptors of the brain for a long period of time, brain chemicals have not been slowed properly. This leaves the user’s brain in a state of hyperexcitation. Without alcohol to “numb” the overproduction of neural signals, a patient can go through uncomfortable, even harmful, withdrawal symptoms.
Severity of Symptoms
As mentioned before, the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can range anywhere from mild to severe. Mild symptoms of withdrawal include: anxiety, headache, insomnia, palpitations, tremors, and stomach issues.
Moderate symptoms typically manifest as hyperthermia, extreme sweating, rapid heart beat, shortness of breath, and confusion.
Extreme symptoms are when delirium tremens can develop. In addition, patients can suffer from full-on seizures, disorientation, confusion, and visual/auditory hallucinations.
Like with most addictions, it’s advised to consult a doctor and be medically supervised while detoxing from alcohol abuse. Without supervision, a patient may suffer unnecessary discomfort or even potentially fatal withdrawal symptoms.
If you’re worried about someone close to you dealing with alcohol withdrawal, you can reach out to Just Believe today to get them the help they need and deserve.
The 2 main options for alcohol abuse recovery are in-patient recovery and outpatient recovery.
Outpatient recovery may be a good choice for people who are at low risk of severe withdrawal symptoms. Patients are given the freedom to transition back into sober life, and are monitored through routine check-ups at an outpatient setting like a doctor’s office. This allows the patient’s recovery to be monitored, gives them the freedom to recover on their own, and also allows for treatment to be escalated if needed.
In-patient recovery is an option available for people who may experience more severe withdrawal symptoms. In-patient recovery can either be provided at a stand-alone detox center, or in more severe cases, at a hospital facility. This type of recovery involves 24/7 monitoring of patient symptoms and can often involve medications such as benzodiazepines or other sedative medications.
Speak Up Now
If you, or someone you love, are going through alcohol withdrawal do whatever is necessary to get help. If you need more information, or would like to talk to one of our counselors, please don’t hesitate. Call: (888) 380-0342
It’s easy to sweep alcohol abuse under the rug, but symptoms can get severe rather quickly. The sooner you can help someone take a step toward recovery, the better.