This article has been medically reviewed by Dr Robert Lefever, a world-leading addictions specialist.
With excessive alcohol intake come various health issues. Many withdrawal patients experience severe symptoms that can be fatal for themselves and have more profound social impacts. Heavy drinkers usually experience shaking after the consumption of alcohol. Tremors that may occur due to alcohol consumption are a rhythmic contraction of muscle that causes shaky movement in one or more body parts. It is an involuntary activity that an individual can’t control. Chronic alcohol consumers usually experience these shakes or tremors if they lessen the amount of alcohol they typically drink.
Alcohol has become a part of everyday life where people use it for celebrations or to reduce anxiety. However, no matter how much people like and consume alcohol, its consumption is not without its effects. One of the most common, frequent, and unpleasant effects is a hangover from those who drink to intoxication. However, it is expected, not scientifically understood well. However, people do experience hangovers differently.
If you experience hangover shakes and tremors or any other symptoms that are not only uncomfortable but also affect your functioning, seek help at help4addiction. Please feel free to call us at 0203 955 7700 and consult counsellors for yourself or your loved one.
What Is The Difference Between Hangover And Alcohol Withdrawal?
The hangover is a state that occurs after binge alcohol drinking. This state comprises unpleasant physical symptoms such as thirst, redness of eyes, headache, fatigue, muscle ache, and increased sensitivity to sound and light. In addition to physical symptoms, hangover is also characterised by mental symptoms and hyperactive sympathetic nervous system symptoms. Increased sympathetic nervous system activity signs include rapid heartbeat, high systolic blood pressure, sweating, and tremor.
Moreover, some mental symptoms that one may experience after alcohol consumption are dizziness, cognitive disturbances, mood disturbances, anxiety, irritability, and vertigo. Although these symptoms are associated with hangovers, the intensity and the type of symptoms that one experiences may vary. Furthermore, an individual’s experiences also depend on the amount and type of alcohol consumed.
Some people may consider a hangover an alcohol withdrawal, but there are some differences between the two. However, according to some studies, a hangover is a mild manifestation of withdrawal.
A hangover occurs after a single heavy drinking episode, and withdrawal, on the other hand, occurs after repeated bouts. Another difference between alcohol withdrawal and hangover is the period of impairment. For instance, a hangover persists for a few hours after consumption compared to several days of alcohol withdrawal. Moreover, alcohol withdrawal includes hallucinations and seizures, which a hangover doesn’t.
Tremor And Alcohol Withdrawal:
Tremor is a major symptom of alcohol withdrawal. According to a 2018 study mentioned in the professional journal Alcoholism, 21.5% of people experiencing alcohol withdrawal had tremors. Moreover, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-5 describes tremors or shakes as alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
Alcohol tremors may include tremors of the tongue, hands, eyelids, or whole-body tremors. These tremors or hangovers usually shakes manifest within hours after you stop drinking alcohol and last at least three and seven days. However, the period for which the symptoms will last depends on the severity of the withdrawal. In addition, one may experience transient tremors ranging from mild to incapacitating.
Some alcohol-dependent people may experience severe tremors, especially in the morning. This level of severity occurs as a result of the drop in concentrations of alcohol in blood overnight.
What Causes Alcohol Shakes?
People who drink alcohol have many nutritional and metabolic disturbances. And previous studies suggested many mechanisms that manifest the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. However, new evidence indicates that interruption in the constant exposure of alcohol to CNS results in withdrawal symptoms. Hence, withdrawal is caused by abstinence of alcohol in alcohol-dependent people or due to insufficient intake of alcohol.
Different parts of our body communicate through the transmission of nerve signals between neurons through neurotransmitters. When a neurotransmitter interacts with receptors, chemical and electrical reactions are triggered in the receiving neuron. And depending on the type of neurotransmitters, the signal-receiving neuron is either activated or inhibited. For instance, Glutamate is an excitatory neurotransmitter that stimulates another neuron, and GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that inhibits the neuron. And for the normal functioning of an individual, a balance is maintained between these two influences under normal conditions.
When you drink alcohol, it works as a depressant by enhancing the activity of GABA receptors, thus suppressing neuronal activity. And when you consume alcohol regularly for a long time, the receptors of GABA neurotransmitters become less responsive. And to reach the same level of suppression, the body then requires more alcohol. This is referred to as tolerance.
In such a system, when the person abstains from alcohol or doesn’t take the amount required, the GABA receptors become less responsive, and Glutamate receptors increase in number. An increase in the number of glutamate receptors then results in enhanced excitatory neurotransmission. Furthermore, removing alcohol from the body causes CNS and the sympathetic nervous system to remain in an overdrive state. This hyperactivity of the sympathetic nervous system causes the known alcohol shakes or tremors, which are also observed in hangovers.
Diagnosis And Causes Of Tremors
Tremors are involuntary movements in different parts of the body, typically the hand. A person may also experience difficulty in holding things, writing, or drawing, along with a change in voice.
Many different types of tremors are classified by source and appearance (tremor amplitude and frequency). For example, those that occurred as a symptom of alcohol withdrawal or hangover shakes can enhance physiologic and cerebellar tremors. Or tremors can be an identification of more severe symptom delirium tremens (DTs).
Although tremors are a symptom of alcohol withdrawal, continuous tremors can be a sign of something serious. Medical health professionals diagnose the cause of tremor by neurological and physical examination and medical history of the individual.
Some other causes of tremors include
- Multiple sclerosis
- Traumatic brain injury
- Neurodegenerative diseases (e.g., Parkinson’s disease).
- Overactive thyroid
- Certain medicines are used for neurological and psychiatric disorders, asthma, and others, such as amphetamines, corticosteroids, etc.
- Liver or kidney failure
- Mercury poisoning
- Anxiety or panic
- Gastrointestinal bleeding
- Disturbances in the electrolyte balance
- Deficiency of the vitamin thiamine
- Deficiency of the vitamin folate
Moreover, intense emotions, stress, physical exhaustion, and specific movements or postures can trigger or make tremors worse. If you experience tremors more frequently, you must consult a professional, no matter what the cause is. If you don’t know who you should consult, call 0203 955 7700. Addiction counsellors of Help4addiction are here to help.
What Is The Treatment of Hangover Shakes?
The first and foremost requirement is to prevent hangovers as much as possible. Many treatments help prevent a hangover, reduce its severity and duration. Following are the recommendations for prevention and treatment of hangover and alcohol withdrawal:
Paying attention to the quantity and quality of alcohol significantly affects symptoms. For example, people who drink small and intoxicating amounts of alcohol are less likely to develop hangovers. Similarly, the type of alcohol one consumes also affects the symptoms of a hangover. For instance, fewer congeners containing alcoholic beverages result in lower hangovers.
Some interventions are not systematically studied but are known to reduce the intensity of a hangover. These recommendations include:
- Consumption of fruit juices, fruits, or fructose-containing food
- Consuming bland foods with complex carbohydrates helps to balance low blood sugar levels
- Adequate sleep reduces fatigue due to sleep deprivation
- Drinking non-alcoholic beverages may reduce dehydration
Some other ideas include:
- Yoga or meditation
- Establishing positive connections with people
- Starting a hobby
Although the options mentioned above may benefit you, the severity, duration, and frequency of hangover shakes may signify that you have alcohol dependence. Therefore, alcohol dependence needs to be treated on time, leading to more severe and life-threatening effects.
Your doctor may provide certain medications to help relieve the symptoms of a hangover. For example, Propranolol, a beta-adrenergic antagonist, is known to reduce hyperactivity of the sympathetic nervous system.
Benzodiazepines are also prescribed to alleviate symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. Unfortunately, these medicines are also addictive and can interact with others. Hence, one must not use any medicine without a doctor’s approval. However, medications also depend on the condition of the individual, and the doctor will prescribe accordingly.
In addition to medications, another treatment strategy that reduces alcohol withdrawal symptoms and alcohol dependence is alcohol detoxification. The safest way to detox from alcohol is to undergo a treatment program under the guidance and care of specialised medical professionals. The care unit staff will determine the duration and intensity of your individualised program and will monitor the symptoms closely.
People usually don’t seek treatment for hangover shakes and tremors until they hinder normal functioning. Although alcohol shakes may be considered a normal symptom of the hangover, they can result from brain damage or other severe underlying conditions. Hence, one must contact a professional for the proper diagnosis of the issue. If tremors are due to alcohol, drink alcohol in moderate amounts and practice recommendations to prevent hangovers. Moreover, treatment is essential for reducing alcohol dependence and the long-term effects of alcohol withdrawal. For free consultation and treatment, professionals at help4addiction are at your service 24/7. Call us at 0203 955 7700 and start your journey to betterment now.
Frequently Asked Question
Are tremors a sign of alcoholism?
What should one do to avoid a hangover?
How to stop alcohol shakes?
How long does hand tremor last?
Why does alcohol cause hangover shake?
What is moderate drinking?
- Tremor Fact Sheet | National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
- Hangover cures
- Alcohol Hangover
- Introduction to Alcohol Withdrawal
- 14 Causes of Shaking Hands
- The alcohol withdrawal syndrome
- Alcohol Withdrawal
Alcohol shakes can be embarrassing, irritating, and severe. It is a symptom of alcohol withdrawal and can result in severe consequences. If you experience tremors, take a step forward and seek help.