It may seem like an obvious solution to recommend non-alcoholic beer to recovering alcoholics. After all, it means they get to drink beer but without the harmful effects of alcohol. However, things aren’t as straightforward as they may seem.
Drinking non-alcoholic beer won’t get you drunk, but it could cause a whole host of other problems for someone recovering from alcohol addiction.
This begs the question – should alcoholics drink non-alcoholic beer or is it best avoided?
Should Alcoholics Drink Non-Alcoholic Beer?
Alcoholics who are on the path to recovery should avoid non-alcoholic beer. The main reason for this is that non-alcoholic beer may cause cravings for the real thing, and even non-alcoholic beer often contains some alcohol.
For alcoholics, it’s important to find new hobbies outside of the sphere of drinking culture. For some, they must avoid bars, clubs, drinking friends – anything that formally supported their alcoholic lifestyle. For this reason, they should also avoid things that trigger their past lifestyle of heavy drinking, such as non-alcoholic beer.
What Are the Dangers of Non-Alcoholic Beer for Recovering Alcoholics?
Unfortunately, as good an idea as offering a recovering alcoholic a non-alcoholic beer sounds, it could have severe consequences on the individual and undo some of the progress they’ve made so far in recovery.
For alcoholics, the dangers of non-alcoholic beer include:
The smell and taste may trigger cravings
The problem with some new non-alcoholic beers is that they taste really like the alcoholic beverage they are brewed to replicate. So, while the beer won’t get you drunk, it does create the sensory illusion that you’re drinking a real beer.
This is particularly dangerous for alcoholics, as the taste of beer alone could easily cause a relapse and trigger cravings for the real thing.
However, there are lots of other things that could trigger these cravings, such as being in a bar setting and being surrounded by people who are drinking. For some people, this could mean that they can safely consume non-alcoholic beers at home, as long as they avoid relapse-triggering settings such as a bar. It depends on the individual.
Non-alcoholic beer may still contain alcohol
The title ‘non-alcoholic beer’ is a bit misleading, as beers that contain up to 0.5% alcohol can be classed as non-alcoholic.
Although this is a minuscule amount of alcohol relative to standard beers – which normally have over 4% alcohol – it still means that a recovering alcoholic is coming into contact with alcohol when they drink supposedly ‘non-alcoholic’ beer.
It serves as a behavioural crutch
Relying on non-alcoholic beers suggests that the individual still needs to feel like they are drinking alcohol to be contented.
Even if their beer doesn’t contain any alcohol, they’re giving themselves a taste of the thing they know they need to avoid.
In this way, drinking NA beer becomes a behavioural crutch, which could negatively impact their ability to cope with an alcohol-free lifestyle.
Romanticising drinking is dangerous
Drinking non-alcoholic beer puts the beverage on a pedestal – it suggests that there’s nothing in the world you’d rather be drinking than beer, or at least something very similar to beer.
This idea could be dangerous for alcoholics, who would be better off filling the void for other alcohol-free options that are further removed from beer and alcoholic drinks.
FAQs About Non-Alcoholic Beer and Alcoholism
Can you get addicted to non-alcoholic drinks?
It is possible to get addicted to non-alcoholic drinks and for them to become a behavioural crutch. If, for example, a recovering alcoholic needs a non-alcoholic beer to feel involved, normal, or otherwise content, this could be classed as an addiction.
Although perhaps not as extreme as an addiction to alcohol, establishing a need for non-alcoholic beer should be avoided for recovering alcoholics.
Why do I feel drunk after non-alcoholic beer?
Many people note a slight feeling of intoxication after consuming a non-alcoholic beer, even though you can’t get drunk on non-alcoholic beer. This is due to the placebo effect.
This placebo effect is created by the non-alcoholic beer containing similar, if not the same, ingredients as its alcoholic equivalent, including hops.
The placebo effect is one of the reasons non-alcoholic beer can be dangerous for recovering alcoholics, as this illusion of real alcohol may give them cravings for the real thing.
How much alcohol does alcohol-free beer contain?
A beer that is labelled ‘alcohol-free’ should, by UK law, contain no more than 0.5% alcohol. It’s important to note that this limit differs for beers labelled as ‘de-alcoholised’ and ‘low alcohol’.
Final Thoughts on Alcoholics & Non-Alcoholic Beer
In conclusion, recommending a non-alcoholic beer to a recovering alcoholic is not a simple or straightforward decision.
While non-alcoholic beer might seem like a sensible choice, as it lacks the intoxicating effect of regular beer, the potential triggers it presents can outweigh its benefits.
The sensory illusion of consuming an alcoholic beverage, the risk of encountering small traces of alcohol, and the behavioural crutch it can serve as all make non-alcoholic beers potentially risky for recovering alcoholics.
While some might argue that non-alcoholic beers provide a form of inclusivity in social settings, for many recovering alcoholics, it is more beneficial to foster new hobbies outside the drinking culture and explore other alcohol-free options. Therefore, rather than serving as a stepping stone towards sobriety, non-alcoholic beer could potentially act as a stumbling block on the road to recovery.
The deceptive sense of intoxication caused by the placebo effect and the potential to develop an unhealthy dependence on non-alcoholic beer further complicates the situation.
It is crucial that each individual recovering from alcohol addiction assess their relationship with non-alcoholic beer and consider the potential risks before incorporating it into their lifestyle.
For those who can enjoy non-alcoholic beer without risk, it’s a valid alternative. However, for those in recovery from alcohol addiction, it may be safer to seek other alternatives.
Ultimately, non-alcoholic beer serves as an example of how what might appear as a simple solution can sometimes introduce further complexity. Each person’s journey with recovery is unique, and what works for one may not work for another. Therefore, it is critical to exercise caution, mindfulness, and professional advice when it comes to dealing with non-alcoholic beers in the context of alcohol recovery.