Addiction | 4 min read

What Are Alcoholism Shakes & How Do They Happen?

Medically Reviewed

Medically Reviewed By

Dr. Po-Chang Hsu

Dr. Po-Chang Hsu

On August 29, 2022

Written By

Amanda Stevens

Amanda Stevens, B.S.

On October 15, 2021

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Reading Time: 4 minutes

While alcoholism is one of the most commonly abused substances in the United States, dependence and addiction to alcohol are often brushed off and overlooked when discussions of drug abuse come up in conversation. There are numerous ways alcoholism can affect lives, both now and in the future.

Short-term effects of alcohol abuse include DUI arrests, alcohol abuse, and increased chances of becoming violent. But, in the long run, alcoholism can lead to permanent and severe health conditions and, sometimes, a criminal record that will follow you for the rest of your life.

A ton of things can go wrong when you drink heavily for an extended period, from liver cirrhosis to brain damage, memory loss, and “wet brain.” One of the more serious but overlooked conditions alcoholism can cause is alcoholism shakes. This condition may not sound serious, but it can be lethal.

What Are Alcoholism Shakes?

The result of long-term heavy alcohol use, alcoholism shakes are the result of binge drinking or just drinking for an extended amount of time. After the body gets used to the amount of alcohol one consumes, a tolerance is built up, so withdrawal symptoms can begin when the amount they drink is decreased. Alcoholism shakes can be caused by a few things, but in most cases, due to withdrawals from alcohol detox.

These involuntary muscle movements, called alcoholism shakes, are tremors that can impact the entire body or a single location. This noticeable jitteriness can impact an individual intermittently or constantly. Either way, this condition can be both inconvenient and uncomfortable.

What Are Alcoholism Shakes

The good news is that for most people who experience alcoholism shakes, the condition is not life-threatening, as long as they begin treatment immediately. However, for individuals who experience alcoholism shakes, it can certainly feel like they aren’t going to make it. The sudden loss of coordination and motor function that they are used to is extremely scary. Most people can recover fairly quickly, though.

When the signs of alcoholism are noticed, it is important to take the proper steps toward detox. Otherwise, you could end up dealing with some serious health complications. When the first sign of dependence or alcoholism shakes, it is crucial to speak with your doctor to find the best plan for getting sober and ending the alcoholism. When left alone, brain damage will only get worse without any treatment. This means that over time, alcoholism shakes could cause disability, which could impact the individual’s ability to care for themselves.

How Do Alcoholism Shakes Happen?

Alcohol is a powerful depressant, impacting the central nervous system. This means it can significantly slow down the brain’s ability to communicate with the body. This lowers measurable brain activity and energy levels.

Alcoholism shakes can happen to anyone that has consumed large amounts of alcohol over time. The root cause of alcoholism shakes is the brain damage caused by excessive consumption of alcohol. This damage happens to brain areas responsible for motor function, impacting muscular movement and coordination.

Dangers of Alcoholism Shakes

In moderation, alcohol poses minimal risks, but when consumed in excess, many things can go wrong. Regular alcohol consumption leads an individual’s tolerance to get higher and higher. When it takes more to get the same effect, withdrawal symptoms and negative side effects can intensify. 

This tolerance allows the brain to operate at a lower capacity than usual, which can significantly change an individual’s baseline brain chemistry. The higher an individual’s tolerance, the more alcohol they’ll have to consume to appear drunk.

If you believe that you or a loved one are suffering from alcoholism shakes, some common symptoms can help you determine if that’s what you are dealing with. These symptoms include:

  • When withdrawal symptoms cause the shakes, they will start about 6 hours after drinking has either slowed down or stopped. The shakes can drag on for weeks, although the peak will happen within the first 3 days.
  • The most obvious symptom will be the shaking of more or more limbs. This is usually the arms or hands. When this occurs, problems with using utensils to eat, writing, and signing their name will happen.
  • One of the biggest symptoms of delirium tremens (DT) is alcoholism shakes. Luckily DT is very rare and only happens in about 5% of all cases of alcohol withdrawal.
  • Alcoholism shakes can even impact an individual’s eyes. This condition can lead to nystagmus, which is when someone’s eyes shake back and forth after no longer being able to control their optical muscles sufficiently.

Dangers of Alcoholism Shakes

While alcoholism shakes alone may not be dangerous, secondary injuries can occur when one is suffering from the shakes. Coordination and balance issues can lead to falls and balance issues. Peripheral nervous system functions may also begin to fail, leading to tingling, weakness, and burning of the limbs.

How To Get Help If Suffering From Alcoholism Shakes

Alcoholism and withdrawal symptoms can be quite challenging, especially if you don’t have a support system by your side. If you or a loved one are experiencing alcoholism shakes, it is important to seek help immediately. Ignoring the problem won’t fix it. Instead, it will make it more difficult to deal with later. Unfortunately, if someone is already experiencing alcohol shakes, they likely have a serious dependency and are already in the early stages of detox. If this is the case, having a medically supervised detox is the safest way to go.

Working with professionals increases your chances for success, as they can help you navigate withdrawal symptoms and set you up with a plan for the future. With the help of a medical professional, you are much more likely to stay clean. In addition, having the support of a professional detox center will give you the best chance of succeeding at long-term sobriety. 

Reach out today if you are struggling with an addiction to alcohol and need to detox from the effects it has had on your body. You deserve this chance to get well and start living the life you’ve always wanted. Ascendant offers New York rehabilitation programs for residents of New York, New Jersey, and surrounding states.

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Amanda Stevens


Amanda Stevens, B.S.

Amanda is a prolific medical content writer specializing in eating disorders and addiction treatment. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Purdue University with a B.S. in Social Work. Read more

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  1. Giorgi A, Sharon A. Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism: Signs, Symptoms, and Diagnosis. Healthline. Published February 16, 2022. Accessed August 29, 2022.