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Should Alcoholics Drink Non-Alcoholic Beer?

Non-alcoholic beer is brewed to replicate the taste and smell of a real beer without affecting the cognitive function of the individual who drinks it. Although it may seem like a no-brainer to recommend a non-alcoholic beer to a recovering alcoholic, it may not always be a good idea.

Drinking non-alcoholic beer won’t get the person drunk, but it could cause a whole host of other problems for those recovering from alcohol addiction. This begs the question – should alcoholics drink non-alcoholic beer?

Should Alcoholics Drink Non-Alcoholic Beer?

Alcoholics who are on the path to recovery should avoid 0% beer. The main reason for this is that it may entice cravings for the real thing and that 0% beer still actually contains some level of alcohol (more on this later).

There are plenty of sound arguments on the importance of non-alcoholic beer in the recovery community. However, the cons of near beer far outweigh the pros.

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.

If a recovering addict should avoid non-alcoholic beverages, you’re probably wondering who non-alcoholic beers are actually for? Alcoholic beer serves as a valid alternative for those who are simply looking to stay sober for an evening, designated drivers, and individuals who are on medication.

What Are the Dangers of Non-Alcoholic Beer for Recovering Alcoholics?

Unfortunately, as good an idea as offering a recovering alcoholic a 0% beer sounds, it could have severe consequences on the individual and completely reverse the progress they’ve made so far in recovery. The dangers presented by non-alcoholic beers include the following:

The smell and taste may trigger cravings

The problem with some of the new 0% beers available is that they taste really like the beverage it’s brewed to replicate. Although the beverage may not incite any cognitive response, it does create the sensory illusion that they’re drinking a real beer.

This is particularly dangerous for alcoholics, as the taste of beer alone could easily incite a relapse and trigger uncontrollable cravings for the real thing.

However, there are lots of things that could trigger these cravings, such as being in a bar setting and being surrounded by individuals consuming regular beer. This would mean that it could potentially be acceptable for the recovering alcoholic to consume non-alcoholic beers at home, as long as they avoid relapse triggering settings such as a bar.

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 ‘alcohol-free’.

Although this is a minuscule amount of alcohol relative to standard beers – which normally have between 4 and 5% alcohol- the recovering alcoholic is still coming into contact with alcohol when they drink supposedly ‘non-alcoholic beer’.

In worst cases, this could incline them to drink large quantities of non-alcoholic beer just to feel close to the effect of a standard beer percentage.

It serves as a behavioural crutch

Relying on non-alcoholic beers suggests that the individual is still addicted to the substance, as they need to still feel like they’re drinking alcohol to be contented.

Whether or not the drink contains any alcohol, drinking non-alcoholic beer reinforces their addiction, in some way, to the real thing. 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, such as soft drinks and juices.


Can you get addicted to non-alcoholic drinks?

It’s possible to get addicted to non-alcoholic drinks if such a beverage acts as a behavioural crutch for the individual. If, for example, a recovering alcoholic needs a non-alcoholic beverage to feel involved, normal, or otherwise content, this should be classed as an addiction.

Although perhaps not as extreme as an addiction to real 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 of the drink.

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 drinks can be dangerous for recovering alcoholics, as this illusion of real alcohol may give them uncontrollable 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

During the advent of the craft beer blow-up, several new, delicious alcohol-free beer was released from respected breweries, from Stewart Brewing to Northern Monk, which created a fresh appeal for the beverage type. These new drinks have made non-alcoholic beer almost as good as the original beer in terms of taste and aroma – which is dangerous for alcoholics.

These non-alcoholic beverages are so close to the imitated beer that they could incite a relapse for recovering alcoholics. Despite their label, they may also contain some level of alcohol and could end up serving as a behavioural crutch for the individual who may end up wanting to drink alcohol again.

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