Will Drinking Non-Alcoholic Beer Cause a Relapse?
Non-alcoholic beer: does it sound too good to be true? Beer that’s safe to drink even if you are sober? Before you get too excited, just what is non-alcoholic beer? Does it contain any alcohol at all? Does it taste like beer? And most importantly of all – is it a risk to your sobriety?
What is non-alcoholic beer? First of all, the name is a bit misleading. In the United States, non-alcoholic beer may contain up to 0.5% alcohol by volume (ABV). While that’s low enough to prevent intoxication, it is not zero. Very few brands of non-alcoholic beer measure 0.0% ABV; most are in the 0.4% to 0.5% range. Perhaps most relevant to this topic, non-alcoholic beer is brewed to mimic regular (alcoholic) beer as closely as possible in taste and smell.
If you peruse online recovery forums, you’ll see that some folks are adamant that drinking non-alcoholic beer will cause a relapse. For them, it’s a matter of when, not if. Others insist that they have been safely drinking non-alcoholic beer for years and no relapse has resulted.
Science, it seems, is siding with relapse risk on this question. A 2016 study indicated that the sense of smell is closely associated with triggering cravings. Cravings, it has been well established, are a significant threat to sobriety and a definite relapse risk. In other words, the fact that you won’t get buzzed, tipsy, or drunk from drinking a non-alcoholic beer doesn’t seem to matter much in terms of the risk to recovery. It seems that the scent is the villain in this scenario, leading you back into temptation.
Getting sober is a hard won accomplishment – one that takes commitment to maintain every day. While it may be possible for some people to drink non-alcoholic beer without relapsing, there is no question that it poses at least some risk. The real question is, “Is it worth it?”
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