Alcohol and Shaky Hands: Unraveling the Causes and Effective Solutions

Why does alcohol make my hands shake?

Experiencing the unpleasant aftermath of a night of heavy drinking is all too familiar for many: headaches, sensitivity to light, an unquenchable thirst, and nausea. However, for some, the repercussions extend further, manifesting as shaky hands—a symptom that may not only signal a hangover but could also be indicative of alcohol withdrawal. This connection between alcohol and shaky hands is a critical issue that warrants attention.

Why does alcohol make my hands shake? This question is more than mere curiosity for those who experience these unsettling tremors. It’s essential to recognize that these shakes could be signaling a condition far more severe than the typical discomfort following a drinking spree: alcohol use disorder. At GateHouse Treatment, we emphasize the significance of identifying these early warning signs. Recognizing them can be pivotal in safeguarding both your health and your future. Our alcohol detox program assists individuals battling alcohol abuse and experiencing associated symptoms such as body tremors.

In this blog post, we delve into the topic of alcohol and shaky hands comprehensively, examining its causes and exploring avenues for alleviation. Understanding these symptoms is the initial step towards embarking on a journey to recovery and achieving better health.

Alcohol and Shaky Hands: Understanding the Connection

Alcohol significantly impacts neurotransmitters by increasing the production of GABA, which promotes feelings of relaxation by alleviating stress and anxiety. Concurrently, it reduces the levels of glutamate in the brain, an excitatory neurotransmitter essential for memory, cognition, and mood regulation. This interaction with neurotransmitters during alcohol consumption induces a state of relaxation that the body begins to associate with the presence of alcohol. As a result, when alcohol is absent, and the brain’s ability to produce GABA decreases while glutamate production increases, individuals may feel less relaxed and more anxious without the substance.

This disruption in the nervous system can manifest as shaky hands, a symptom often exacerbated by the vicious cycle of consuming alcohol to alleviate this distressing sign, potentially indicating an alcohol use disorder.

A study featured in the National Library of Medicine illuminates the clinical manifestations associated with alcohol dependence, including hand tremors. It examines the behavioral patterns of individuals addicted to alcohol during intoxication and withdrawal phases, emphasizing the broader physiological impacts of alcohol abuse, such as hand tremors. The research underlines how alcohol’s effects on the body can lead to significant distress and dysfunction, highlighting the importance of comprehensive treatment and recovery approaches. Understanding the connection between alcohol and shaky hands is crucial for medical professionals, patients, and their families to recognize the signs of alcohol withdrawal and to pursue appropriate interventions.

In addition, there are other concerning reasons linking alcohol and shaky hands, highlighting:

Brain Damage Caused by Alcohol:

The relationship between alcohol and shaky hands is a concerning issue, highlighting the severe consequences of chronic alcohol abuse and Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) on brain health. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) has identified that such drinking patterns can lead to the development of Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome (WK Syndrome). This critical brain condition combines two interrelated disorders: Wernicke’s disease and Korsakoff’s psychosis.

WK Syndrome inflicts damage on several key brain areas, notably the thalamus, hippocampus, hypothalamus, and cerebellum. These regions are essential for managing vital functions, including vision, movement, language, sleep, memory, and motivation. The symptoms of Wernicke’s disease, a component of WK Syndrome, are particularly alarming:

Brain damage due to alcohol
  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Severe fatigue, instances of hypothermia, low blood pressure, or coma
  • Issues with muscle coordination affecting posture and balance, leading to tremors and involuntary movements across the body
  • Visual problems such as erratic eye movements, double vision, eye misalignment or crossing, and eyelid drooping

These symptoms, coupled with the evident link between alcohol and shaky hands, emphasize the grave impact excessive alcohol intake can have on both brain functionality and physical health.

Liver Disease Caused by Alcohol:

The connection between alcohol and shaky hands extends to liver disease as well. According to Alcohol Research & Health, the harmful effects of alcohol on liver cells compromise not only the liver’s normal operations but also have repercussions for other organs, including the brain. Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to prolonged liver dysfunction, which in turn may cause the onset of hepatic encephalopathy (HE), a severe and potentially fatal brain condition. Individuals with HE may experience a range of symptoms, such as sleep disturbances, changes in mood and personality, severe cognitive impairments, anxiety, depression, and motor issues. These motor problems include a lack of coordination and a specific type of hand tremor known as asterixis.

Alcohol Tremors: What to Do?

Alcohol and shaky hands Alcohol and Shaky Hands: Unraveling the Causes and Effective Solutions 1

Experiencing alcohol tremors during withdrawal is a unique ordeal for each individual, influenced by their specific level and pattern of alcohol consumption. The onset of hand tremors related to alcohol can occur anywhere from 5 to 72 hours after the last drink, with varying degrees of intensity. The process of withdrawal, aimed at alleviating these tremors, typically spans 1 to 2 weeks, though it may extend further in some instances. The link between alcohol and shaky hands due to withdrawal syndrome is clear, accompanied by additional symptoms such as:

  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Confusion
  • Irritability

The connection between alcohol and shaky hands raises concerns, signaling potential underlying disorders and the risk of severe complications like Delirium Tremens (DT).

DT begins with symptoms including hand tremors, insomnia, and confusion, potentially escalating to more severe conditions like hallucinations, psychosis, and fever. This condition stems from a significant disruption in the brain’s neurotransmitter balance during alcohol withdrawal, affecting essential bodily functions like respiration and heart rate. Hence, seeking immediate medical assistance is crucial upon noticing these symptoms.

Given that alcohol tremors can be an early sign of DTs, it is essential to regard them with utmost seriousness. While they often represent a symptom of withdrawal that may diminish naturally, underestimating the possibility of progression into more severe issues would be unwise.

How to Reduce Hand Tremors Due to Alcohol Consumption

Reducing hand tremors associated with alcohol consumption can be achieved by decreasing the amount and frequency of alcohol intake or by ceasing alcohol consumption entirely. It’s crucial to understand that improvement in this symptom requires time and may initially worsen before it gets better. Strategies such as staying hydrated, maintaining a balanced diet, practicing meditation, and taking vitamins can mitigate the severity of alcohol and shaky hands. However, these methods do not tackle the root cause or provide a long-term cure. The most effective approach to managing alcohol tremors involves seeking professional help and engaging in a professionally supervised alcohol detox program.

GateHouse Treatment offers specialized alcohol detox programs tailored for individuals grappling with alcoholism, aiming for sustained sobriety. Our team of professionals supports participants through the detox process, helping them address the root causes of their addiction and equipping them with the necessary skills for a life free from substance use.

More about GateHouse Treatment & Alcohol Detoxification

Located in Nashua, GateHouse Treatment is among the premier substance abuse rehab and treatment facilities serving both New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Our center provides a personalized and client-focused environment. The alcohol detox program at GateHouse Treatment includes the following:

  • Expert clinical care
  • Safe, supervised housing
  • A 12-step immersion program
  • Development of life skills and case management services
  • Companion therapy

To embark on a journey toward a life devoid of alcohol and shaky hands, call us at (855) 448-3588 or schedule a complimentary consultation online.

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