Medically Reviewed by Dr. Mohammed Saeed, MD.
For those recovering from an alcohol abuse disorder, making it through the weeks of withdrawal symptoms can be one of the biggest hurdles to overcome. One symptom that can be quite frightening—and especially dangerous, if not medically supervised—is shaking or tremors as a result of stopping alcohol consumption abruptly.
Body or hand shakes will usually set in two or more days after alcohol consumption stops. For some alcoholics in detox, these shakes are barely noticeable. For others, however, they can be quite a bit more dramatic and even interfere with daily living. So, just how long should you expect your particular symptoms to last?
The duration of your shakes and tremors can be dependant on a few different factors. Everyone will experience recovery and withdrawal a little bit differently, depending on the circumstances and severity of their addiction. Sometimes, recovering alcoholics experience no shakes at all throughout the detox period. In some cases, body shakes last until the withdrawal process is complete, which can be anywhere from 1-2 weeks, on average.
If you’ve been experiencing fear or intense anxiety as you move forward with detox, these shakes can be even more intense. Those who have struggled with long-term, chronic alcohol dependency may experience shakes throughout the entire withdrawal process and sometimes even weeks beyond that.
How Long Does Delirium Tremens Last?
Approximately 5% of recovering alcoholics will develop a condition known as Delirium Tremens or D/T. This is a neurological disorder that arises as a result of alcohol withdrawal and can present symptoms such as hallucinations, confusion, and intense whole-body tremors that may last well beyond the detoxification period.
Similar to the more common withdrawal shakes, D/T will generally begin presenting symptoms after 2 to 4 days, but can sometimes take up to a few weeks to fully develop. D/T is extremely dangerous and will often require 100% medically supervised detox, including heart rate and blood pressure monitoring and, sometimes, even emergency life support.
Those affected by D/T during the withdrawal period may develop permanent brain damage or neurological disorders if not supervised and treated by a team of medical professionals. Because it may be difficult to predict the intensity and duration of alcohol withdrawal symptoms, including shakes and tremors, it is always advised that alcoholics seek clinical recovery to best manage and monitor symptoms that may evolve into more serious conditions.