Is It OK to Drink Non-alcoholic Beer in Recovery?

Is It OK to Drink Non-alcoholic Beer in Recovery?

Whether or not non-alcoholic beer, or NA beer, is ok for someone recovering from alcohol use disorder is subject of some controversy. People who think it’s fine often say it’s a convenient replacement for alcohol. They compare it to vaping for people who want to quit smoking. A big part of what makes addiction so hard to beat are the habits and rituals associated with it. Some argue that preserving those using NA beer makes it easier to quit drinking without feeling a void in daily life. NA beer has become more popular in recent years and is pretty widely available now, which makes it an easy go-to option for people who are out with friends and don’t want to drink, but don’t want to be conspicuously not drinking. Some people also just love the taste of beer. While NA beer doesn’t typically get stellar marks for flavor, some may find it good enough.

On the other hand, there are very strong reasons for avoiding NA beer if you’re recovering from alcohol use disorder. Perhaps the biggest reason is that non-alcoholic beer isn’t actually non-alcoholic; it’s just low-alcohol. Most NA beers are 0.4 or 0.5 percent alcohol by volume, compared to around 0.5 percent for most regular beers. That means you would have to drink about 10 NA beers to get as much alcohol as one regular beer.

If you stuck to NA beer, getting even a slight buzz would require serious dedication, so there’s little risk of a serious relapse just from drinking NA beer. However, the danger isn’t from the NA beer itself, but rather from it’s associations. Beer has a distinctive smell and taste, which can be a powerful trigger for many people. Not everyone with alcohol use issues drinks beer, but if you didn’t like beer when you were drinking, you probably wouldn’t like it when you’re sober either. What’s more, the small amount of alcohol in NA beer can be triggering. People recovering from alcohol use disorder often have a heightened sensitivity to alcohol. Even alcohol used in baked goods or braised meats might trigger cravings. So while 0.5 percent alcohol might not even be detectable to some, people in recovery are likely to notice it.

Finally, there’s the question of context when drinking NA beer. Recovering from addiction is about living a better, more fulfilling life, and not just about abstinence. If you just want to swap beer for NA beer, you might end up doing all the same things that contributed to your addiction in the first place, especially if you’re going to the same bars with the same people, or coming home from work and drinking NA beer in front of the TV.

Despite these strong objections, it’s worth noting that not everyone’s situation is the same. If you feel like you drink a bit too much, switching to NA beer at least some of the time is certainly an improvement. In a culture prone to excessive drinking, less alcohol is almost always a good thing. However, don’t’ let NA beer be the Trojan horse that lets addiction back into your life.

The mission of The Beach House is to provide success in the recovery process and elevate the standard of comprehensive addiction treatment. Located right on the coast of Malibu, California, expert clinical care and a holistic view of the recovery process is provided to ensure Best-in-Class treatment tailored to the needs of each client. If you’re ready to start your recovery journey today, call us at 310-736-4183.

Kimberly James

I am the founder and owner of The Beach House Treatment Center, The White House, Indigo Ranch, Sweetwater Mesa and Beach House Center for Wellness, all in Malibu, California.