Blog - Beach House Rehab Center
non-alcoholic beer
June 14, 2021

Can Recovering Addicts Drink Non-Alcoholic Beer?

At first blush, non-alcoholic beer may seem like a safe alternative for people who want the experience of drinking without any chances of getting intoxicated. However, if you are recovering from an alcohol abuse disorder and prioritizing your sobriety, people have probably cautioned you to avoid non-alcoholic beer. The general idea is that steering clear of temptations can keep you on track with your goals. However, there is also scientific evidence supporting the idea that non-alcoholic beer could be risky for people in recovery.

Sensory Triggers Can Cause Cravings

The results of one study suggest smell may be enough to trigger cravings for some people in recovery. Scientists trained lab rats to dispense alcohol when they smelled banana, and a sour substance called quinine when they smelled orange. The researchers found increases in pleasure activity in the rats’ brains before and after smelling the banana.

In a separate study from Indiana University, researchers gave 49 men half an ounce of beer over 15 minutes – enough to sample the beer’s flavor, but not enough to increase their blood alcohol concentration. The research subjects drank either a sports drink or water as a control. After the men sipped beer, their brains showed a marked release of dopamine, a brain chemical linked with happiness and pleasurable activities.

As these results suggest, your sense of smell and taste can trigger a relapse. For some people, the mere anticipation of alcohol – even the fact that non-alcoholic beer’s bottle and label are virtually identical to the genuine article – is enough to cause intense cravings and threaten their sobriety.

Committing to Change

Avoiding a relapse takes effort. Even people with years of experience practicing a sober lifestyle can be vulnerable to triggers such as stress, anger or loneliness. If you are working to maintain your sobriety, one of the most beneficial things you can do is to develop new habits and coping strategies that help you manage these triggers as they arise. That means you’ll need to find new hobbies that don’t revolve around drinking once you return to life outside the structure a rehab provides.

For many recovering alcoholics, it’s vital to find new friends who do not drink or use drugs. As you know from the studies cited above, the sight, smell or taste of non-alcoholic beer might be all it takes for someone with a history of substance abuse to undo all the hard work they did in their recovery program.

After you get discharged from an accredited treatment program, heading out to a bar with your old drinking buddies might cause a domino effect. Even if you don’t get intoxicated, the temptation to drink something more potent can be a powerful relapse trigger that reminds you of the days when you built your life around abusing alcohol.

Where to Seek Help for an Alcohol Abuse Problem

A desire to drink non-alcoholic beer may be a warning sign that you have not fully committed to your sobriety, and perhaps you aren’t quite willing to break up with alcohol and make a fresh start. It could also indicate that you did not fully identify your substance abuse’s root causes, which might suggest a need to re-enroll in a treatment program. For example, perhaps you have a dual diagnosis like alcohol abuse disorder and depression, and your first stint in rehab didn’t adequately address your mental health needs. In that case, finding a rehab facility with a low client-to-therapist ratio can benefit you.

At Beach House, we have created an ideal environment for addiction recovery by pairing a compassionate culture with an emphasis on clinically excellent, evidence-based practices. We believe love and connection are the opposite of the hopelessness that characterizes addiction. To learn more about what makes us unique, verify your insurance coverage and explore the amenities we offer at our private, resort-like campus, you are welcome to contact our admissions counselors 24/7/365.