The Symptoms and Treatment for Alcoholic Tremors

Medically Reviewed By Kayla Loibl | Last Edited : December 20 , 
| 4 Sources

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

The symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can be fatal

Alcoholic Tremors

Alcoholic tremors are one of the most recognized alcoholism symptoms and typically occur during withdrawal from alcohol. The National Institutes of Health report that alcoholic tremors usually occur within 72 hours of taking your last drink, but they can occur up to ten days after you stop drinking. The overactivity of the sympathetic nervous system is believed to be responsible for alcohol withdrawal tremor, and excessive and prolonged alcohol abuse could result in a serious chronic tremor disorder.

These tremors may just involve shaky hands but often include full body tremors. Sometimes referred to as delirium tremens, this condition is considered a medical emergency because someone in this condition can experience life-threatening complications like seizures, severe vomiting leading to dehydration, chest pain and heart problems, and serious psychiatric problems such as hallucinations.

In this regard, the tremors which follow alcohol withdrawal is akin to the action or postural tremor that follows the utilization of lithium or beta agonists.

If you or someone you know begins to experience tremors you think are related to drinking, you should go to the nearest emergency room right away. Don’t try to drive yourself to the emergency room; if no one is available to drive you, call 911 and go by ambulance.

Why Does One Shake After Drinking Alcohol?

Because alcohol has a depressant effect, excessive consumption could lead to the brain becoming accustomed to a diminished level of stimulation. When alcohol leaves the body, the brain then becomes flooded with activity, resulting in the nervous system becoming hyperactive, triggering alcohol tremors. It could happen as quickly as eight hours after a person’s last drink.

If you’re experiencing alcohol tremors and other withdrawal symptoms, it could be a sign that you already have a dependency or addiction on alcohol or alcoholism. With your body being used to having alcohol in your system, cutting down or cutting back could be setting off these sensations.

It is crucial to stop or at least reduce drinking in a controlled and safe manner when you’re addicted to alcohol. Several withdrawal symptoms are serious and some are even fatal, so it’s always advised that you seek proper medical support and advice.

Treatment for Alcoholic Tremors

Treatment for these tremors usually involves hospitalization for at least a few days, until the danger has passed. Your vital signs, including your pulse, respirations, and blood pressure will be monitored closely. You’ll be watched closely, since serious complications can occur at any time.

Blood tests will be done to check for electrolyte imbalances, vitamin deficiencies, and other problems. Your blood might also be tested to see how much alcohol is in your system and if you have any other drugs in your system. You might be given an electrocardiogram, a test that monitors your heartbeat to check for cardiac problems. If any abnormalities are found, you may be kept on a heart monitor for a while. Other tests will be ordered if necessary.

You will probably be given intravenous fluids to prevent or treat dehydration, possibly with some B vitamins in them to help with nutritional deficiencies common in people that drink too much (sometimes this IV treatment is referred to as a banana bag because the solution in the bag is yellow in color from the B vitamins in it). Intravenous fluids may help with nausea, too.

You may be given medication to help with tremors and to prevent seizures. You may be given medication to help with nausea and vomiting. If you’re hallucinating, you may be given antipsychotic medication to help with that, but those drugs are used with caution in people withdrawing from alcohol because they can increase the risk of seizures.

After the immediate danger has passed, you’ll need treatment to help you avoid drinking again in the future.

Other Alcoholism Symptoms During Withdrawal

Tremors aren’t the only symptom you might experience during withdrawal from alcohol and some of the other symptoms can be pretty serious. Other alcoholism symptoms you might experience include:

  • sweating heavily
  • pale skin
  • nausea and vomiting (may lead to dehydration, which can cause dizziness and fainting)
  • diarrhea (may lead to dehydration, which can cause dizziness and fainting)
  • loss of appetite
  • confusion, disorientation
  • trouble focusing on things
  • agitation, irritability
  • hallucinations (seeing and/or hearing things that aren’t really there)
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • rapid mood swings
  • feeling jumpy
  • restlessness
  • fatigue
  • trouble sleeping
  • deep sleep from which it is hard to awaken
  • headache
  • extreme sensitivity to light and sound
  • heart palpitations (feeling like your heart is pounding; it may or may not feeling like your heart is also skipping beats)
  • abnormally fast heartbeat
  • irregular heartbeat
  • unusual eye muscle movements
  • chest pain
  • stomach pain
  • fever (can be very high)
  • seizures

Again, some of these symptoms can be life-threatening, so seek medical attention right way. If you have any questions about alcoholic tremors, please contact us.

Alcoholism Diagnosis During Withdrawal

Alcohol withdrawal is pretty easy to diagnose if you manifest usual symptoms that happen after you cut back or totally stop excessive and prolonged drinking. If you have a prior experience of alcohol withdrawal symptoms, you tend to have them return if you begin and then stop excessive drinking again. There are no particular tests that could be used to diagnose alcohol withdrawal.

If you suffer from withdrawal symptoms from drinking, then it’s possible that you have already consumed enough alcohol to harm your other organs. It’s a good idea for your physician to examine you and do blood tests, watching out for alcohol-related damage to your heart, liver the nerves in your fee, gastrointestinal tract, and blood cell count. Your doctor will assess your usual diet and examine for vitamin deficiencies because malnutrition is typical when someone is alcohol dependent.

It is generally challenging for people who drink to be totally honest about how much they have been consuming. You must report your drinking history to your doctor so you could be treated accordingly and safely for alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

Take a Step to Improve Your Life

Seeking help for alcoholism is a major step toward recovery and sobriety. That is choosing where to get proper treatment should not be taken in stride. Contact a treatment provider today to know more about the best alcoholism treatment options for you.

If you found this page helpful, then the following may be of interest to you:

Lead Writer/Reviewer : Kayla Loibl

Licensed Medical Health Professional 


I am a Mental Health Counselor who is licensed in both New York (LMHC) and North Carolina (LCMHC). I have been working in the Mental Health field since 2015. I have worked in a residential setting, an outpatient program and an inpatient addictions program. I began working in Long Island, NY and then in Guelph, Ontario after moving to Canada. Read More


Priory. Alcohol shakes & tremors - a sign of alcoholism?.

News Medical. Tremors Following Alcohol Dependency.

Harvard Health Publishing. Alcohol Withdrawal. April 2019.

American Family Physician. Classification of Tremor and Update on Treatment. March 15, 1999.

Return from Alcoholic Tremors to Alcohol Addiction Recovery 

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