Green’s Dictionary of Slang

staggers n.

also blind staggers
[SE stagger; note 1609 cit. puns on staggers, a disease of horses (ref. to the Galloway Nag) and sl. use/staggering through excess drinking; note also the SE hungry staggers, suffered by those weakened by starvation]

1. extreme drunkenness.

[UK]Pimlyco, or Runne Red-Cap 2: The Pimlyconians are most of them Malt-men [...] they liue not long, for a man can hardly stay amongst them two dayes: if he doe, he is in great danger, by reason of a certaine disease [...] called the Staggers, through which, many of them come to their Downe-fall.
[UK]Rowlands Night Raven 14: A drunkard [...] Came very late reeling through the watch, who cald him [...] who goes there? But he, in staggers would not seem to heare.
[UK]R. Speed Counter Rat F3: [A Black Rat] This second Smug, who had the staggers [...] This Smith so arm’d in Ale.
[UK]Man in the Moon 5 May 14: [He] went reeling home, like one troubled with the staggers.
[US]M.L. Weems Drunkard’s Looking Glass (1929) 60: The drunkard’s looking glass, reflecting a faithful likeness of the drunkard, in sundry very interesting attitudes, [...] as first, when he has only ‘a drop in his eye;’ second, when he is ‘half shaved;’ third, when he is getting ‘a little on the staggers or so;’ and fourth, and fifth, and so on, till he is ‘quite capsized;’ or ‘snug under the table with the dogs,’ and can ‘stick to the floor without holding on.’.
[US]C.H. Smith Bill Arp 128: Thar was nary one but what had the dyspepsy or the swinny, or the rumatics, or the blind staggers, or the heaves, or the humps, or sumthin.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 26 Mar. 9/2: The Jim Jams. Nervous Abilities. Enlargement of the thirst and Appetite. Hennessy’s Staggers.
[UK]Aberdeen Eve. Exp. 7 June 4/1: In aiming a kiss at a Chicago girl’s mouth and missing it [...] he must have had the blind staggers.
[UK]Leeds Times 6 June 6/6: In Kansas I was obliged to make an affadavit [sic] and swear it that I was sick with the blind staggers.
[Ire]J.M. Synge Playboy of the Western World Act III: Well, isn’t he a nasty man to get into such staggers at a morning wake.
[US]R. Lardner Big Town 59: If a stew with the blind staggers had of walked in there in the dark, the folks on the floor below would of thought he’d knocked the head pin for a goal.
[US](con. 1917) J. Stevens Mattock 130: Sergeant Shevlin, running like he had the blind staggers loomed into sight.
[US]H. Miller Tropic of Capricorn (1964) 298: He would [...] return two or three hours later blind drunk and, what was worse, scratching a little paint off the rolling doors in his blind staggers.
[US](con. 1943–5) A. Murphy To Hell and Back (1950) 27: Probably invented the blind staggers and the seven-day hangover.
[US]Lait & Mortimer USA Confidential 95: U.S. Customs agents it has, but apparently some have the blind staggers.
D. Powell Golden Spur (1991) 187: He could [...] fall on his face with blind staggers.
[UK]J. McClure Snake 117: It was the Coloured pusher Rex du Pluui, already with the staggers at that hour, and holding up an empty bottle.
[US]D. DeLillo Running Dog (1992) 157: A rangy Negro skittering over the dance floor, all ripples and blind staggers.
[US]J. Wambaugh Secrets of Harry Bright (1986) 31: Hiram, in a state of stagger from an overload of crystal and bar whiskey.
[UK]J. Healy Streets Above Us (1991) 179: He wanders away to get a bite before he gets a touch of the staggers.
[US](con. 1940s–60s) Décharné Straight from the Fridge Dad.

2. in fig. use of sense 1.

[UK]Stirling Obs. 27 May 3/6: You’ll spit the tobacco-juice of determination in John Bull’s eyes till he has the blind staggers, when you can take him by the tail.
[US]Day Book (Chicago) 11 Dec. 23/2: Organized labor has a string to it, so long and twisted that to follow it to its end would bring on a severe attack of the blind staggers.