Drug and Alcohol

Shaking After Drinking: If This Is Happening to You, It Might Be Serious

What Does Shaking After Drinking Mean?

Shaking after drinking: If you've ever experienced this, you know how disturbing it can be. Learn about what shaking after drinking means in our blog.

Written by

brian-mooreBrian Moore

Content Writer

Reviewed by

jeremy-arztJeremy Arzt

Chief Clinical Officer

Drug and Alcohol

October 28, 2023

You went hard last night.

Hung out with your friends and threw a few back...okay, more than a few back. Last night's mostly a blur, and you've woken up again with a hangover.

Only this time is different: your hands are shaking.

This isn't just your standard, run-of-the-mill way too hungover shaking. This is something new and different, and it's got you a little worried.

But what's causing you to feel shaking after drinking? And more importantly, how serious is it?

Binge Drinking by the Numbers:

Three-quarters of the total cost of alcohol misuse is related to binge drinking.

What Causes the Shakes After Drinking?

There are a few different things that can cause the shakes after drinking, but they all come back to one thing: your body's reaction to alcohol.

Alcohol is a depressant, which means it slows down your central nervous system. This can lead to a number of effects on your body, including reduced coordination and slurred speech. But when you've been drinking heavily, there are a few other factors at play that can contribute to the shakes:

Dehydration

Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it causes you to urinate more often. This can lead to dehydration, which in turn can cause tremors or shaking.

Low Blood Sugar

Drinking alcohol can also cause your blood sugar levels to drop. When this happens, your body may compensate by releasing adrenaline, which can lead to shaking or tremors.

Alcohol Withdrawal

This is the big one. If you've been drinking heavily for an extended period of time, your body can become physically dependent on alcohol. When you suddenly stop drinking, this can trigger withdrawal symptoms such as shaking, tremors, and even seizures.

Hangover

While not as serious as alcohol withdrawal, a hangover can also cause shaking. This is due to the body's reaction to the toxins and byproducts of alcohol in your system.

When Should You Be Concerned?

In most cases, the shakes after drinking are nothing to be too concerned about and will go away on their own. However, there are some instances where it could be a sign of a more serious issue:

Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome (AWS)

As mentioned, heavy and prolonged alcohol consumption can lead to physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms. In extreme cases, AWS can cause severe tremors, hallucinations, delirium tremens (DTs), and even death. If you experience these symptoms after quitting drinking, seek medical attention immediately. AWS can be very serious.

Underlying Medical Conditions

In some cases, the shakes after drinking could be a symptom of an underlying medical condition. Conditions such as Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, and essential tremor can all cause shaking or tremors. If you have a history of these conditions or experience other symptoms along with shaking, it's important to speak with your doctor.

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What Can You Do About It?

If you're experiencing the shakes after drinking, there are a few things you can do to help alleviate them:

Rehydrate

Drink plenty of water and other hydrating fluids to replenish your body's water levels. This can help ease dehydration-related tremors and prevent further dehydration.

Eat Something

As mentioned, low blood sugar can contribute to the shakes after drinking. Eating a balanced meal or snack can help stabilize your blood sugar levels and reduce shaking.

Take Breaks From Drinking

If you find that the shakes are becoming more frequent or severe with alcohol consumption, consider taking breaks from drinking or cutting back on your consumption. This can help prevent future episodes of shaking.

What Should I Do If I Keep Shaking After Drinking?

If the shakes persist or become increasingly severe, it's important to seek medical attention. Your doctor can help determine the underlying cause and provide appropriate treatment.

A fundamental understanding says that when certain parts of the brain that are responsible for regulating your muscle movements start responding negatively to the absence of alcohol in your system, the shakes set in.

It is not necessary that only an alcoholic may suffer these withdrawal-type symptoms. Even people who consume alcohol only socially and are trying to cut back on their drinking might suffer similar symptoms.

Okay, a bit of shakiness after a few drinks is not an emergency. However, you should be conscious of how often it happens. Some over-the-counter medicines, a bit of food, and consuming more fluids can help.

But you should get in touch with a doctor if the shaking does not go away. When it is just not hands shaking after drinking but actual full-body tremors that you feel and the shaking lasts for more than 24 hours, it indicates something more serious.

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So Why Am I Shaking After Drinking Alcohol?

Tremors or shaking in the hands or legs are common symptoms associated with alcohol withdrawal. These tremors can get more severe, recurrent, and worrying if someone is trying to quit using drugs or alcohol. In both cases, the body is reacting to the lack of or a lowered amount of alcohol in the system.

For people in an alcohol detox treatment program, such tremors are somewhat expected and can be dealt with safely and comfortably. For people who are witnessing an increasing frequency and intensity of shaking after drinking, this can be dangerous. Seizures are an unfortunate and serious side effect of alcohol detox.

Alcohol Withdrawal: Why Is It Dangerous?

Alcohol withdrawal can be dangerous due to the potential for severe symptoms, such as seizures and delirium tremens. In some cases, it can even lead to death if not properly treated. Additionally, alcohol withdrawal can also cause dehydration and electrolyte imbalances, which can have serious effects on the body's organs and systems.

Moreover, alcohol withdrawal can also increase the risk of relapse. The physical and psychological discomfort of withdrawal can lead individuals to turn back to alcohol for relief. This makes it important for those experiencing symptoms to seek medical attention and proper treatment.

In our body, the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) changes how we feel, working via many receptors throughout the body. Frequent, heavy drinking impacts the working of these receptors. When the receptors' sensitivity levels to GABA is altered, chances of shaking after drinking tend to increase.

The body tries to counteract alcohol's naturally sleepy or sedative effects. This boosts the sensitivity levels of the glutamate receptors that bring about unwanted changes in brain functions, particularly neuron activities. This can persist for many hours after consuming alcohol, explaining why waking up shaking after drinking might continue for some time, sometimes lasting for a day or even more.

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Shaking After Drinking: Other Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal

  • Shaking after drinking alcohol isn’t the only sign of alcohol withdrawal. Other signs include:

  • Extreme sweating

  • Rapid heartbeat

  • Bouts of trembling that come and go

  • Migraine-like headaches

When people drink excessively for a long period, it accustoms the brain to function with a lesser degree of stimulus as alcohol tends to make us less aware, slowing down overall alertness levels. For people in alcohol detox programs and among heavy drinkers, the shakes set in as the alcohol levels in their systems dip, where the brain is suddenly swamped with a frenzy of activity, almost hyperactive, and exposed to more stimuli. 

When Does Alcohol Withdrawal Start?

Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can start as soon as a few hours after the last drink and typically peak within 24-48 hours. However, for heavy and prolonged alcohol consumption, symptoms may not appear until several days after quitting drinking.

It's important to seek medical attention if experiencing any symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, regardless of when they occur.

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Does Shaking After Drinking Mean I'm an Alcoholic?

Not necessarily. While heavy and prolonged alcohol consumption can lead to physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms, this does not automatically mean someone is an alcoholic. However, if you find yourself experiencing shakes or other symptoms of alcohol withdrawal frequently, it may be a sign that your drinking habits are causing harm to your body and it may be time to reassess your relationship with alcohol.

So, it's important to pay attention to your body and seek help if needed. Remember, there is no shame in seeking help for alcohol addiction or dependence. Your health and well-being are the top priorities.

Shaking After Drinking: What Is "High-Intensity Drinking"?

High-intensity drinking refers to a specific type of alcohol consumption that involves consuming large amounts of alcohol in a short period of time. This is also known as binge drinking and can lead to a range of negative consequences, including the shakes after drinking.

Binge drinking not only increases the risk of developing physical dependence and experiencing withdrawal symptoms, but it can also increase the chances of accidents, injuries, and other harmful behaviors. It's important to be aware of your alcohol consumption and make responsible choices when it comes to drinking.

Shaking After Drinking: What Are the Symptoms of Alcohol Abuse?

Rather than focusing only on how to stop shaking after drinking, you might also want to be sure if you are progressing towards alcoholism. Alcohol abuse is a much bigger threat than a one-off incident of suffering a bit of tremor after drinking heavily.

  • Please check yourself for the following symptoms of entering a stage of alcohol dependence:

  • Spending more and more time recovering from the effects of drinking 

  • Continuing drinking alcohol even after being clearly told that it creates a threat to others or your family

  • Developing case of liver problems

  • Increasing instances of depressed mood when not drinking

  • More instances of memory problems

  • Uncontrollable cravings to consume alcohol

  • An overpowering desire to drink during working hours or when spending time with family

  • The inability to control the amount of alcohol consumed in one sitting

  • Needing more and more alcohol to feel the same effects

Shaking After Drinking: What Are Delirium Tremens?

Delirium tremens (DTs) is a severe form of alcohol withdrawal that can include symptoms such as confusion, disorientation, hallucinations, and seizures. While not everyone who experiences alcohol withdrawal will develop DTs, it is important to seek medical attention immediately if you do experience these symptoms.

Without proper treatment, DTs can be life-threatening. Remember, seeking help for alcohol addiction or dependence is nothing to be ashamed of and can potentially save your life. So take care of yourself and know when it's time to seek help.

Symptoms of the DTs include:

  • A rhythmic type of body shaking

  • Hallucinations

  • Sleepiness

  • Anxiety-like symptoms

  • Increased heartbeat

  • Passing out

  • Muscle tremors

  • Slow or impaired eye movements

  • Problems with gripping

  • Chest pain

  • Elevated blood pressure

  • Sweating

  • Nausea and vomiting

If you are developing Delirium Tremens, consult a doctor immediately. Only a trained medical professional can give you clarity taking into consideration any signs of alcoholism and recent symptoms you have been experiencing. The tests recommended by the physician might include an electroencephalogram (EEG) apart from magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and a metabolic panel.

More investigation might prevail in the form of checking the levels of magnesium and potassium in your blood.

Shaking After Drinking: What Is Alcohol Withdrawal?

Alcohol withdrawal is a set of physical and psychological symptoms that occur after suddenly stopping or reducing heavy and prolonged alcohol consumption. These symptoms can range from mild to severe and can include shaking, anxiety, sweating, nausea, insomnia, and more. The severity of symptoms depends on factors such as the amount and frequency of alcohol consumed, overall health, and previous history of alcohol withdrawal.

Alcohol withdrawal can be dangerous without professional help. If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, seek medical attention immediately. Remember, it's never too late to make a positive change and prioritize your health and well-being. So, always listen to your body and take care of yourself.

A person's shaking as a part of alcohol withdrawal might need some medicines. The standard set of medications recommended here include:

  • Pain medication

  • Antipsychotic drugs

  • Anticonvulsants

  • Blood pressure medication

  • Benzodiazepines

  • Medication to regulate heartbeat

  • IV fluids

Shaking After Drinking Is Your Body Sending You a Message. The Edge Treatment Center Will Help

At The Edge Treatment Center, we understand the struggles of alcohol addiction and the toll it can take on your physical and mental health. Our team of professionals is dedicated to providing individualized treatment plans that address the root causes of addiction and help clients achieve long-term recovery.

Guided by a trauma-informed philosophy, we offer a variety of programs and therapies, including detoxification services, to support individuals through every stage of their journey toward a healthier and happier life.

Don't let the shakes after drinking be a warning sign that goes ignored. Contact us today to learn more about our treatment options and begin your journey toward healing and wellness. Remember, you are not alone and help is available. Take care of yourself and make the choice to prioritize your health and well-being today.

So, don't hesitate to reach out for support if you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol addiction. The Edge Treatment Center is here to help.

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