Is Shaking a Sign of Alcoholism?

Robert Gerchalk

Robert is our health care professional reviewer of this website. He worked for many years in mental health and substance abuse facilities in Florida, as well as in home health (medical and psychiatric), and took care of people with medical and addictions problems at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. He has a nursing and business/technology degrees from The Johns Hopkins University.

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Are Shaking hands a Sign of Alcoholism?

Alcoholism, or alcohol use disorder (AUD), has numerous warning signs, one of which is shaking. Understanding the signs of alcoholism and what they mean is crucial to getting proper treatment. 

Why Does Alcohol Cause Shaking?

Shaking is a common side effect in people who have been drinking. In someone who doesn’t drink often, shaking the day after excessive drinking could be the result of physiological changes like low blood sugar. Someone who consumed a lot of alcohol the night before may have forgotten to eat, and getting some food could solve the problem. 

Another reason for shaking the day after drinking is that the brain is trying to balance its chemistry. Drinking throws off the balance of GABA and glutamate in the brain, and this can cause shaking as the brain struggles to correct the imbalance. 

Shaking can also occur during alcohol withdrawal as the body attempts to restore normal function. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms, such as tremors, may range from mild to severe, depending on the individual’s history of alcohol use, their unique physiology, and their general state of health and wellness.

There is a huge range in the frequency and intensity of withdrawal symptoms, and not everyone who drinks excessively will experience them. Seeking medical help is essential for anybody having alcohol withdrawal symptoms, particularly if they are severe, since this will allow for a controlled and safe withdrawal process. Professional medical treatment and, if required, certain medications can help alleviate withdrawal symptoms.

Difference Between Alcohol-Induced Shaking and Delirium Tremens

Shaking from alcohol use occurs quite a bit in heavy drinkers. However, alcohol withdrawal may also cause delirium tremens, a severe condition. While not everyone who suffers from alcohol withdrawal will advance to delirium tremens, it’s vital to identify the indications and seek medical assistance if symptoms become severe.

There is a connection between shakiness brought on by alcohol and delirium symptoms. In both cases, the underlying cause is alcohol withdrawal. Within a few hours to a day after abstaining from alcohol, a person may experience trembling or shaking, particularly in the hands. Shaking caused by acute alcohol withdrawal in occasional drinkers is unpleasant but an ultimately non-life-threatening symptom. Delirium tremens often manifest between 10 and 72 hours following the last drink and are often accompanied by visual and auditory hallucinations, sweating, and respiratory distress. 

Other Signs of Alcohol Withdrawal

Sweating

Because of alcohol’s influence on the central nervous system, excessive perspiration is a typical symptom of alcohol withdrawal. Alcohol causes blood vessels to widen and interferes with the body’s natural cooling mechanisms, leading to overheating. 

Withdrawal symptoms from alcoholism, such as anxiety and elevated heart rate, can increase perspiration. Furthermore, alcohol misuse can cause liver disease, which in turn may cause hormonal imbalances that further affect perspiration. 

Nausea and Vomiting

Damage to the digestive system brought on by alcohol abuse can make you more prone to feeling queasy. This occurs because alcohol use increases gastric acid production, which irritates the stomach lining and causes it to become inflamed. 

Increased Heart Rate

When people drink alcohol, their blood vessels narrow. As a result, the heart responds by beating faster to ensure sufficient blood flow. Arrhythmias are more common in those who drink alcohol regularly because it interrupts the heart’s normal rhythm. Additionally, abstinence from alcohol may aggravate these effects, adding to palpitations and a fast pulse.

High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is a possible side effect of alcoholism because of the complicated interplay between alcohol and the cardiovascular system. Drinking alcohol regularly causes blood vessels to narrow, which can result in ongoing high blood pressure. 

In addition, alcohol interferes with the harmony of hormones that keep blood pressure in check. This has long-term repercussions that increase the risk of hypertension and related cardiovascular disorders. Modifying one’s lifestyle and giving up alcohol can have a beneficial effect on blood pressure, leading to improved cardiovascular health.

Insomnia

Although alcohol has a calming effect at first, it can make it difficult to go to sleep and keep you awake at night. This occurs because alcohol abuse leads to changes in neurotransmitter levels, most notably a decrease in the sleep-regulating hormone melatonin. Insomnia gets even worse during alcohol withdrawal, adding to the problem. 

Loss of Appetite

Because it interferes with digestion, alcohol causes loss of appetite and poor nutritional absorption. It can also inhibit the brain’s natural appetite-control systems, making you feel less hungry. Chronic alcohol use exacerbates malnutrition and weight loss because it usually replaces necessary nutrients with empty calories. To maintain good health, it is crucial to address nutritional deficiencies and seek treatment if alcoholism is the root cause of them.

Irritability and Mood Swings

Prolonged alcohol use upsets the equilibrium of neurotransmitters, especially those involved in mood regulation such as dopamine and serotonin. Abruptly cutting down on alcohol use or quitting suddenly might cause withdrawal symptoms, which can accentuate irritability and mood swings. Alcohol also contributes to mental instability via its effects on sleep patterns and general physical health. Understanding the connection between mood disorders and alcoholism emphasizes how crucial it is to deal with underlying problems and get mental health care to achieve long-term recovery and emotional stability.

Headache

Many people who drink excessively report experiencing headaches. In addition to contributing to dehydration and headaches, alcohol use also causes blood vessels to narrow and raises your blood pressure. It also perpetuates headache symptoms by increasing inflammation and altering neurotransmitter levels. 

Seizures

Seizures are a dangerous complication of alcoholism that can occur during detox. Chronic and excessive drinking leads to alterations in the brain’s electrical activity, making a person more vulnerable to seizures when they stop drinking. The withdrawal causes a disruption in the equilibrium of neurotransmitters, especially inhibitory ones. Seizures and other forms of brain hyperexcitability are a possible and potentially life-threatening outcome of this imbalance. 

Understanding the Importance of Alcohol Detox

Detoxification from alcohol is an important first step in the rehabilitation process. It helps a person break their physical dependency on alcohol, which is crucial to making progress in future therapies, including those that address both the psychological and behavioral elements of alcohol consumption. 

The value of medical supervision during alcohol withdrawal goes well beyond preventing any potential health complications. Detox is usually a difficult time for people emotionally, and having access to mental health services can help ease that transition, promote a more holistic approach to recovery, and lay the groundwork for long-term sobriety. It’s also worth noting that people are more likely to relapse if they don’t go through a full medical detox since they may drink again to cope with the agony of withdrawal.

What Is Medically-assisted Treatment?

Medically-assisted treatment (MAT) uses medicine in conjunction with other forms of therapy to help alcoholics break their addiction. Benzodiazepines, antipsychotics, naltrexone, and acamprosate are some of the most regularly prescribed drugs that treatment providers offer to help clients manage the disease of alcoholism. 

MAT is most successful when used in conjunction with other forms of therapy, such as counseling; self-help, 12-step, or peer focussed programs; and behavioral treatments. By considering the person as a whole, this method promotes a more holistic and long-lasting road to recovery from alcohol use disorders.

Benzodiazepines

Diazepam and lorazepam are two examples of benzodiazepines that physicians sometimes use to treat alcohol withdrawal symptoms including anxiety, seizures, and tremors; these medicines help reduce activity in the central nervous system. By reducing the risk of potentially fatal side effects like delirium tremens, these drugs make the withdrawal process more manageable. 

The possibility of addiction and dependency can make the use of benzodiazepines problematic and call for close monitoring. When used in a short-term, tapering way, benzodiazepines demonstrate their significance in facilitating a more pleasant and regulated withdrawal for persons attempting to recover from alcohol dependency during detoxification.

Antipsychotics

Antipsychotics are necessary for some clients as they help regulate mood, decrease hallucinations, and avoid future difficulties, ensuring the safety of those undergoing alcohol detox. In extreme situations of agitation and hallucinations brought on by alcohol withdrawal, doctors may prescribe antipsychotic drugs like haloperidol. These drugs also help treat delirium tremens and extreme disorientation.

Due to the potential for adverse effects, antipsychotic medication is usually only used in extreme circumstances and under strict medical care. Treatment approaches that use antipsychotics can make the recovery process safer by addressing the complex neurochemical imbalances that occur during alcohol withdrawal.

Naltrexone

Naltrexone is an opioid receptor antagonist that reduces the pleasurable effects of alcohol use and encourages sobriety. You can take it orally or get an injection. Combining naltrexone with counseling or behavioral therapy provides a more all-encompassing method of treating alcohol dependence. When alcoholics take naltrexone, studies show that they are 17% less likely to return to heavy drinking.

Acamprosate

Acamprosate regulates neurotransmitter activity in the brain, notably influencing glutamate. It reduces withdrawal symptoms and suppresses cravings for alcohol by taming the hyperexcitability that sets in after abstaining from the substance. 

Combining this medicine alongside psychotherapy and other forms of assistance provides the best results. Acamprosate is typically safe and well-tolerated, making it an excellent choice for the long-term treatment of alcoholism. Its effective use and incorporation into each client’s unique treatment plan require close physician supervision, but using acamprosate has shown to help 14% more people abstain from alcohol permanently.

Get Help

Taking the initiative to learn more about alcoholism and choose a treatment center is a huge step in the right direction. Alcoholawareness.org promotes education, insight, and access to recovery services so that people may make educated choices about their sobriety. We understand the subtleties of alcohol abuse and provide a safe and discreet atmosphere for people seeking therapy. We value honesty and openness with our clients; therefore, we outline all of the available alternatives for care, from detox to aftercare. Help is available now.

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