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Understanding Alcohol Shakes: Is This a Sign of Addiction?

Home » Blog » Understanding Alcohol Shakes: Is This a Sign of Addiction?

Discussions of hangovers typically focus on relatively common symptoms such as headache, dry mouth, dizziness, and nausea. But what does it mean of you also experience uncontrollable shakiness after a night of heavy alcohol use? Are alcohol shakes a sign of addiction or evidence of another type of serious problem?

What Are Alcohol Shakes?

Alcohol shakes are a symptom of withdrawal. Also sometimes referred to as alcohol tremors, alcohol shakes are a physical reaction that usually occurs when a person who drinks regularly has not consumed alcohol for a certain amount of time.

Alcohol shakes are usually most noticeable in a person’s hands, but they can also affect the arms and head. This shakiness can begin to occur as quickly as three to six hours after a person’s last drink. If the individual remains alcohol-free, the tremors usually subside within a few days.

People who develop alcohol shakes often experience this symptom in the morning, along with other hangover symptoms. (Yes, if you didn’t realize it, hangover symptoms are actually withdrawal symptoms, occurring as your body tries to re-establish a healthy internal balance after processing and eliminating an excessive amount of alcohol.)

It’s important to note that alcohol shakes are not the same thing as delirium tremens (the DTs). Though they can also include tics and tremors, the DTs are a much more serious, potentially life-threatening set of withdrawal symptoms. 

Only about 3%-5% of people who go through alcohol withdrawal develop the DTs, which can also involve extreme disorientation, hallucinations, and cardiovascular distress. These symptoms usually start to become noticeable about 48 hours after a person’s last drink. They are most common among people who have been drinking heavily for an extended period of time.

Are Alcohol Shakes a Sign of Addiction?

As we noted in the previous section, alcohol shakes are a type of withdrawal symptom. And withdrawal symptoms are included in the criteria for alcohol use disorder (alcoholism) as established in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). 

So, yes, alcohol shakes can be a sign of addiction. This doesn’t mean that shakiness is definitive proof that you have become addicted to alcohol – but it is a cause for concern that you shouldn’t ignore.

Alcoholism Warning Signs

Alcohol shakes are by no means the only sign that you might have a drinking problem. Other alcoholism warning signs include:

  • Spending significant amounts of time drinking or recovering from the effects of alcohol.
  • Feeling like you need alcohol in order to experience happiness or cope with sorrow.
  • Hiding alcohol in your house, car, office, and other locations so you always have access to it when you need a drink.
  • Failing to meet personal, academic, or work-related responsibilities because of your alcohol use.
  • No longer participating in hobbies, sports, or other activities that you used to enjoy, because of your alcohol use.
  • Lying to or otherwise deceiving friends and family members about how much or how frequently you have been drinking.
  • Continuing to drink even after experiencing medical problems, losing your job, being arrested, or incurring other types of alcohol-related harm.
  • Using alcohol in ways that you know are especially hazardous, such as combining it with other mind-altering substances.
  • Developing tolerance, which means you need to drink more than you used to in order to experience alcohol’s effects.
  • Needing to use alcohol to help you wake up in the morning or get to sleep at night.
  • Experiencing physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms when you try to quit drinking, or when you are prevented from drinking for a certain amount of time.
  • Wanting to quit drinking, but discovering that you are unable to do so.

If any or all of the signs above look familiar to you, you should consult with your primary care physician or another qualified professional. Completing a thorough evaluation and receiving an accurate diagnosis can be important steps on your path toward an alcohol-free future.

Treatment Options for Alcoholism

Treatment for alcoholism can take place at several levels of care and involve a variety of therapies and support services. With so many options available to you, it’s important to find a provider who will work with you to identify the full scope of your needs, help you set meaningful goals, then develop a customized plan just for you.

Depending on an array of personal factors, you may benefit from receiving care at one or more of the following levels:

  • Residential treatment
  • Partial hospitalization program (PHP)
  • Intensive outpatient program (IOP)
  • Outpatient treatment

Within these programs, your treatment for alcoholism may include elements such as:

  • Individual psychotherapy
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
  • Red light therapy
  • Adventure therapy
  • Holistic rehab services
  • Trauma therapy

Learn More About Alcohol Addiction Treatment in Atlanta

If compulsive alcohol abuse is preventing you from living the productive and satisfying life you deserve, Peachtree Recovery Center is here to help. 

Our center is a trusted source of personalized outpatient programming for adults who have become addicted to alcohol and other substances. We also serve patients whose struggles with alcohol are accompanied by anxiety, depression, and other co-occurring mental health conditions.

At our alcohol addiction treatment center in Atlanta, Georgia, you can expect to receive customized services and close personal support from a team of highly skilled and deeply compassionate professionals. We understand that every person who develops an addiction to alcohol is impacted in a unique manner, and we are committed to providing you with the focused care that best aligns with your specific history, needs, and goals.

With our help, you can learn to manage your self-defeating urges, quit drinking, and start building a foundation for successful, long-term recovery.

To learn more or to schedule a free assessment, please visit our Admissions page or call us today.