Is Non-Alcoholic Beer Safe?
For people who have achieved a newfound state of sobriety, the consumption of non-alcoholic beer may seem like a completely harmless substitution for their prior habit. On the surface level, it seems completely reasonable that a person uses these products because their alcohol content is so low (or nonexistent) that the person is highly unlikely to go on a drunken bender. Despite this apparent harmlessness, there are many good reasons why people in alcohol rehab should avoid these types of beverages.
Non-Alcoholic Beer And Low Alcohol Beers
Low alcohol beers are defined by having an alcohol content of less than 0.5% alcohol by volume (ABV) in the United States. A typical, non-craft light beer contains around 4.5% ABV so it would take consuming the equivalent of nine low-alcohol beers in order to equal the amount of alcohol in one typical light beer. The typical human liver is able to metabolize the equivalent of one full-strength alcoholic drink per hour. Knowing this, it is safe to say that it is nearly impossible for someone with a healthy functioning liver to become intoxicated from low alcohol beer.
Other names for non-alcoholic beers:
- No alcohol beer
- Non-alcoholic beer
- Near beer
- Small beer
- Small ale
- NA beer
- Pretend beer (colloquial term)
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Reasons For Drinking Low Alcoholic Beer
People who are recovering from alcohol use disorders may choose to consume non-alcoholic beer for a number of reasons. Some of these psychological and social reasons may include:
- Even if someone is going through recovery for alcohol use disorder, they may still enjoy the fermented taste of beer. Non-alcoholic beer seems to offer a safe way to indulge in this taste.
- The person may feel more comfortable while at social situations in bars if they are drinking a non-alcoholic beer. For one, this may help them avoid the awkward situation of having to explain why they aren’t indulging in alcohol. Their associates may just assume they are drinking a regular beer.
- Most bars only offer soft drinks, such as sweet sodas, as the only non-alcoholic option other than NA beer. Many people don’t want to consume sugary drinks very frequently as they can present their own health risks.
- Non-alcoholic beer is often very high in caloric content, up to 200 kcal per bottle. This is an even higher calorie content than many full alcohol beers. Consuming high calorie beverages with frequency can lead to issues with obesity and other physical issues.
- Even if the beer doesn’t contain alcohol, it can give the user the psychological comfort that regular beer used to provide.
- Some people may experience a placebo or psychosomatic effect from non-alcoholic beer. It’s possible that they start to feel like they’re consuming the real thing.
Dangers Of NA Beer Consumption
While the actual danger of intoxication from consuming non-alcoholic beer is very low, there are many psychological factors that can lead to detrimental effects for someone who is recovering from alcohol use disorder. We explore some of the reasons behind these dangers below:
- Outside the United States, the parameters for non-alcoholic beer can differ. In some countries, non-alcoholic beer can contain up to 1.2% ABV and consuming a few of these beverages can lead to some of the early effects of alcohol intoxication.
- Some of the placebo or psychosomatic effects of NA beer can lead some to a justification for relapse.
- The high caloric content of non-alcoholic beers can lead to feelings of nausea after a consuming a few beverages.
- It can be argued that living a sober lifestyle entails changing all previous habits that a person engaged in while using. The risk of relapse may be heightened, even though the beer contains alcohol in amounts that cannot cause intoxication. This may also be a sign that a person doesn’t take recovery seriously.
- Someone who drinks non-alcoholic beer may derive pleasure from pretending that they are drinking a beer that contains alcohol. This is a concept called “romancing the drink” and can be a quick route towards relapse.
The Slippery Slope Of “Romancing The Drink”
This concept mentioned before can lead to a person relapsing or backsliding in their recovery. As time goes on, someone may remember their drinking with a certain amount of fondness. This can include their heavy-drinking fraternity days or sunny days drinking on the beach while on vacation when they were able to drink without consequences for their social life or responsibilities
What the person may not remember is the negative aftermath that came with drinking to excess. The hangovers and social issues that come along with heavy drinking may not be as easy to remember, due to alcohol-induced memory loss or other reasons.
It is important to realize that everyone is different and this concept doesn’t always happen across the board. Because of this, the decision to drink non-alcoholic beers while going through treatment depends on the person and their personal relationship with alcohol.
Alternatives To NA Beer
With an increasing amount of demand in recent years, restaurants and bars have made strides to accommodate for people who choose not to imbibe alcohol. The following are some common alternatives to non-alcoholic beer:
- For those who enjoy the fermented taste of beer, restaurants have started offering certain fermented tea beverages called kombucha. These drinks are much lower in calories than typical soft drinks and may even offer some probiotic benefits. Local businesses often brew their own kombuchas, in a trend similar to the “craft beer” movement.
- Any bar or restaurant typically has access to carbonated soda water that can be flavored with a splash of fruit juice. Don’t be embarrassed to order exactly what you want at a bar or restaurant, the employees are there to be hospitable and provide you with whatever you ask for (within reason of course.)
- It is a common habit for people in recovery to drink non-alcoholic beverages at the same rate that they would an alcoholic beverage with the goal of intoxication. This is a habit that can be broken as long as you’re mindful.
- Another current trend in modern bars is to offer non-alcoholic cocktails or “mocktails.” This can ensure that you never get bored with what you’re drinking, and some craft bartenders even enjoy working on their recipes in order to accommodate everyone.
Are non-alcoholic beers bad for you?
While non-alcoholic beers do not contain enough alcohol to provide an intoxicating effect, there can still be some negative health consequences. These products can be very high in calories and carbohydrates, both of which can lead to issues such as obesity and nausea.
What is the healthiest non-alcoholic beer?
Nearly every non-alcoholic beer option contains similar calories and carbs compared to their regular counterparts. These should be considered as calorie-laden as a typical soft drink such as Coca-Cola® and should be consumed with similar frequency.
Can you drink non-alcoholic beer driving?
While it is technically legal to drink these beverages while driving because it does not contain a significant amount of alcohol, the bottles and cans that contain the drinks are nearly identical to typical beer with alcohol. This could add to the risk of getting pulled over by police and questioned.
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