Non-alcoholic beer is touted as a safe alternative for those who want to quit alcohol. Popular brands like O’Douls, Clausthaler, and Beck’s N.A. are supposed to be safe to drink in recovery. They’re perfect if you don’t want to drink alcohol, but still want that beer-drinking sensation. However, new research has found that drinking non-alcoholic beer can actually lead to relapse for those in recovery. Whether it’s the small amount of alcohol, the nostalgia of the taste, or a simple placebo effect, most studies warn against drinking N.A. beer to stay sober.

N.A. Beer Still Contains Alcohol

You might think that non-alcoholic beer lives up to its name, but not quite. Just like decaf coffee contains some caffeine, non-alcoholic beer has some alcohol in it. N.A. beer is categorized as any beer with less than .5% alcohol. It is also known as “near beer” and can legally be served to minors in Texas, Minnesota, Wisconsin, New Jersey, and Illinois. Because of the low amount of alcohol in N.A. beer, the chances of intoxication are very slim.

The Smell Can be a Trigger

While the low amount of alcohol is not enough to cause intoxication, other factors can make N.A. beer dangerous. One study found that even the smell of beer can cause a reaction in the brain that triggers addiction. Since N.A. beer has every characteristic of the real thing, your brain lights up its reward center before you even take that first sip. Just the smell of beer causes dopamine to be released in the brain if a person already has a strong association or attachment to it.

Attitudes or attachments to drinking can be very strong. Drinking N.A. beer can be a gateway to attitudes and actions you want to leave in the past. The smell and taste of beer, even N.A. beer, can cause relapse by falling into bad patterns from the past.

Not a Part of a Drug-Free Lifestyle

Recovery experts agree that N.A. beer should not be part of a drug-free lifestyle. If you are trying to find substitutes to addictive behavior, you are doomed to fail. As many as 90 percent of alcoholics will experience at least one relapse in the four years after they quit drinking. With such a high percentage, adding an extra temptation to drinking like N.A. beer can increase the chance of relapse significantly.

Quitting drinking might also require quitting old lifestyle habits. Drinking non-alcoholic beer with old drinking buddies it not a lifestyle change that leads to recovery. It’s best to make new non-drinking friends that can help your recovery. Sitting around drinking near beer in your old hang out with your old friends is maintaining your old lifestyle, not creating a new one. 

Next Steps

Moving on from drinking means taking steps to change your life. Drinking N.A. beer could be holding you back from giving all of your effort to recovery. If you or a loved one struggle with alcohol addiction, help is available. Rock Recovery Center in West Palm Beach, FL can help with next steps. Call our 24-hour help-line or chat live with us now.

Additional Resource

Heavy Drinking Alters Your DNA

Should You Drink Low-Alcohol Beer?