Alcohol drinks contain the substance ethanol, which is a psychoactive drug. Alcohol in low doses may cause euphoria, reduced anxiety, and sociability, while in high doses it may cause drunkenness (intoxication), stupor and unconsciousness. Long term use may lead to alcohol dependency. While alcohol may cause all these, it affects Parkinson’s Disease and Essential Tremor patients differently. Tremoring may occur due to many different diseases and reasons. Alcohol withdrawal and abuse can cause said tremors, especially in the hand, since alcohol kills certain nerve cells. For Essential Tremor patients the ingestion of alcohol has been shown to improve the tremors. Doctors may use alcohol to see diagnose ET if they see a decrease in the amplitude of tremors, albeit not very common. There are studies underway regarding the correlation between alcohol and ET. One of the studies conducted by JH Growdon, took 5 ET patients which showed a decrease in tremor amplitude after 15 minutes of ingesting alcohol. The same 5 patients were given equal amounts of ethyl alcohol infused into a brachial artery, and there was no decrease in tremor amplitude. Concluding that in patients with essential tremor, ethanol acts on sensitive structures within the central nervous system and has no effect on peripheral tremor-genic mechanisms. Providing evidence for a central mechanism in essential tremor, distinguishing it from other tremors arising primarily from oscillation in peripheral servo-loops.
Conversely, PD patients are affected differently from the consumption of alcohol. It has been suggested to be protective of PD or to have no effect at all. A study by Dr. Bettiol emphasizes the need for more studies regarding the correlation between PD and alcohol since many studies provide different results. As well as having different result some studies use different criteria compared to others. It is difficult to have a perfect study since many factors can affect the results. Small things such as intake of coffee, if individuals are drinkers or non-drinkers, and frequency of alcohol intake can vary results from study to study. Another study concluded that a history of an alcohol use disorder conferred an increased risk of admission with a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease in both women and men. In particular, the risk seemed higher at lower ages of first admission with Parkinson’s disease. Moreover, another study by Rui Liu and others, concluded that beer and liquor consumption may have opposite associations with PD: low to moderate beer consumption with lower PD risk and greater liquor consumption with higher risk. As we can see more studies have to be done to get to a final conclusion on how alcohol affect PD patients.
As we can see both diseases affect patients differently under the influence of alcohol. Consequently, if it helps someone with their tremors it does not mean it will help everyone. Each person is different and is affected differently. Having been diagnosed with either of the diseases you must know your limits and what is good for you. Being a patient suffering from PD does not mean you cannot enjoy a glass of wine, however, moderation is key and alcohol may affect a person’s ability to accomplish task. Furthermore, if alcohol makes you more unsteady, by combining this with the instability of PD or ET it may increase the risk of falling and even injury.
We welcome anyone to comment their anecdotes with alcohol or to ask for advice on how to handle it.