What Are The Alcohol Shakes and How Long Do They Last?

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Nicholas Conn

Nicholas Conn is a leading industry addiction expert who runs the UK’s largest addiction advisory service and is regularly featured in the national press, radio and TV.

What Are The Alcohol Shakes and How Long Do They Last?

Alcohol shakes, also known as the ‘shakes’ or ‘the hangover shakes’, are a common issue for people who drink too much alcohol or those trying to quit.

If you start shaking after you stop drinking, you may feel concerned. However, understanding what they are, how long they last and how to cope with them can help to ease your worries.

In this blog post, we will be exploring what ‘the shakes’ are, how long they last, and how you can prevent them.


What Are Alcohol Shakes?

Alcohol shakes, often called tremors, are involuntary movements or trembles. Typically, they affect your hands, fingers, and sometimes other parts of your body.

These shakes can vary in severity, from mild to severe. They can also come accompanied by other symptoms - for example, anxiety and impacted mental health, sweating, high blood pressure and a racing heart.


Why Do Alcohol Shakes Happen?

The main reason alcohol shakes occur is because of changes in the brain and nervous system caused by excessive alcohol consumption.

Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. This means that it slows down brain activity and nerve signals. The more you drink, the more your body gets used to this slowed-down state.

Over time, as you drink more and more, your body builds tolerance to alcohol. This means you need to drink a large amount of alcohol to achieve the same effects.

When you stop drinking, especially after heavy and prolonged alcohol abuse, your body experiences withdrawal symptoms as it tries to readjust to functioning without alcohol. Alcohol shakes are one of these withdrawal symptoms. You can learn more about the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal here.


How Long Do Alcohol Shakes Last?

The length of time that alcohol shakes can last varies from person to person, depending on several factors. These factors may include:

  • The severity of your alcohol abuse
  • The length of time you have been abusing alcohol
  • Your genetics
  • Your overall health
  • Whether you seek medical assistance during alcohol detox


Shakes or tremors can begin as soon as a few hours or days after your last drink. They tend to peak within the first 24 to 48 hours of alcohol withdrawal.

During the first 48 hours to the first week, most people experience the worst of the shakes. During this time, you may also experience other alcohol withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, nausea, insomnia and more.

You should then notice an improvement - after the first week, you should notice that the shakes become less intense.

Some people, however, may experience prolonged withdrawal symptoms, including occasional alcohol shakes, for several months after quitting. This is known as Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS).


Tips To Cope with Alcohol Shakes

Experiencing alcohol shakes can be distressing, but there are things that you can do to manage them effectively.

1 -  Drink Enough Water - Staying well-hydrated can help alleviate some symptoms, including shakes. Drink plenty of water to flush alcohol and toxins from your system.

2 - Maintain a Balanced Diet - Eating nutritious meals can provide your body with essential vitamins and minerals that may have been depleted due to alcohol use.

3 - Get Enough Sleep - As you detox from alcohol, it’s important that you get enough sleep and monitor your energy levels. Lack of sleep can worsen symptoms, so aim for a regular sleep schedule.

4 - Practice Relaxation Techniques - Stress and anxiety can worsen alcohol shakes, so it can be helpful to try relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga and deep breathing.

5 - Identify Your Triggers -  Recognise the situations, emotions, or thoughts that trigger cravings or the urge to drink. Develop healthy coping mechanisms to manage these triggers effectively, whether it's through exercise, hobbies, mindfulness, or seeking support from your network.

6 - Get Support - You don’t have to deal with alcohol withdrawal alone - reach out to friends, family, or support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous. Talking to someone who understands what you're going through can be extremely helpful.

If your symptoms are severe or if you have a history of heavy drinking, don’t hesitate to seek medical help. Medical professionals can prescribe medications and provide guidance to make the withdrawal process safer and more comfortable.


Alcohol Shakes vs Delirium Tremens

Delirium tremens (DTs) are severe and life-threatening alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Unlike simple alcohol shakes, DTs involve hallucinations, confusion, rapid heartbeat, high fever, and seizures.

DTs typically occur in individuals with a long history of heavy alcohol use and can be dangerous and even fatal if not treated promptly. That being said, it is very uncommon.

In summary, alcohol shakes are milder tremors, while delirium tremens are a severe and potentially life-threatening form of alcohol withdrawal.


How to Prevent Alcohol Shakes

The best way to avoid uncontrolled shaking is to prevent it by drinking responsibly and seeking help if you suspect you may have a drinking problem.

It can be helpful to monitor the amount of units you are drinking to ensure you’re not drinking too much. Knowing your limits is key - be aware of how much alcohol you can safely consume without experiencing negative effects.

When you do consume alcohol, make sure you are setting limits and sticking to them. Avoid binge drinking or excessive alcohol consumption.

If you think that you may have a problem with alcohol, be sure to seek assistance as soon as possible. The sooner you address the issue, the easier it may be to quit without experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms.

So, to recap, here is how you can prevent alcohol shakes: 

  • Monitor your alcohol consumption
  • Set limits and stick to them - reduce your drinking
  • Consider rehab to get sober and regain control 


We can help you get sober. At Help4Addiction, we can connect you with a rehab provider that meets your unique needs. Enquire today to get started.


Overcome Alcohol Addiction Safely

If you or someone you know is struggling with a physical dependency on alcohol and displaying symptoms of alcoholism, we recommend that you seek professional help to stop drinking alcohol.

There are various resources and treatment options available to support individuals on their journey to recovery. At Help4Addiction, we can connect you with the best alcohol rehab provider for you.

Your alcohol addiction treatment programme will begin with an alcohol detox. We will recommend the best approach for you; for example, if you have severe alcohol dependence, you may benefit from an inpatient medical detox. However, if you have a milder addiction, you could be eligible for an at-home detox. The detox timeline can vary from person to person, so it's important to seek professional support beforehand.

You will then receive addiction therapy, which can be extremely beneficial. Therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy/ CBT can teach you effective relapse prevention techniques, and address other mental health issues.

Remember, it's never too late to seek help and make positive changes for a healthier, alcohol-free life. Begin your recovery journey today.

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