“Sober Curious”,”Sobertober”, “Dry January”… the trend of drinking non-alcoholic beverages has surged in popularity in recent years, greatly reducing the stigma around them.
In the U.S. alone, non-alcoholic beer sales increased by more than 37% in 2020 and sales of non-alcoholic craft beer sales were up by 278%.
For those looking to take a break from alcohol or have healthier, low-calorie, alternatives to drinking, non-alcoholic beverages are appealing. These NA beverages provide an alternative to soft drinks when trying to avoid regular beer and cocktails.
But what about those in recovery from alcohol abuse? Could this provide a safe alternative for those struggling with alcohol dependency?
What is Non-Alcoholic Beer?
According to federal law, for a drink to be considered Non-Alcoholic (NA), it must contain less than 0.5 percent alcohol by volume (ABV).
Non-alcoholic beer brewers will tweak the ways they use yeast and grains or will extract alcohol through a process of vacuum evaporation in order to remove alcohol enough to meet this threshold.
Traditional beer brewing processes include fermentation or the process of using yeast to convert sugars into alcohol, but non-alcoholic beer brewing processes reduce fermentation so that alcohol is never formed. When brewers extract alcohol by chemical and industrial procedures, it leaves trace amounts of alcohol in the final product. As opposed to 100%, truly alcohol-free beer, where there is a 0.0% ABV, the process does not involve fermentation at all.
The alcohol in real beer, ethanol, normally boils at 173 degrees Fahrenheit but under the vacuum pressure process mentioned above, brewers are able to evaporate ethanol at about 68 degrees Fahrenheit. This allows non-alcoholic brewers to preserve the beer while removing the alcohol contents. In preserving the beer, brewers have been able to improve the taste of non-alcoholic beers, contributing to their recent popularity.-
Are There Risks of Drinking Non-Alcoholic Beer in Recovery?
The amount of alcohol in non-alcoholic beer is so low (approximately 1/10th of real beer) that the chances of an individual becoming intoxicated by consuming it are nearly impossible. Without this risk the true concern for those in recovery shifts to potential triggers.
In order to be intoxicated by a non-alcoholic beverage, one would have to drink an amount of liquid that the body simply cannot handle as quickly as possible. In April 2013, a competitive eater named Tim Janus tried to get drunk by drinking 30 cans of O’Doul’s in one hour. After drinking 28, he registered a .02% blood alcohol content and threw up. It is highly recommended that no individual replicates this ‘experiment’.
For many patients recovering from alcohol addiction, the idea of consuming alcohol in any amount can cause anxiety and fear of an unintentional relapse. This danger can be quite disturbing to people in recovery and understandably a psychological trigger that is worth avoiding. These psychological triggers can additionally set off a host of physiological responses such as feeling tense, nauseous, or dizzy as a consequence of being in that situation.
Alternatively, patients may experience a “euphoric recall”, or a tendency to remember things in a positive light blocking out negative aspects of that experience. Reframing the negative effects of one’s chemical dependency into positive ones can lead to poor decisions and even relapse.
It is most important for individuals to be able to recognize and deal with the potential triggers that can be offset by attending social situations where alcohol and non-alcohol may be present.
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Is Non-Alcoholic Beer Okay for Recovering Alcoholics?
Not all recoveries are alike and as such, there is no generally agreed upon rule governing NA beverages in the recovery community. Individualized treatment plans have become the norm in the recovery community. Whether non-alcoholic substitutes help you or abstaining from alcohol entirely is your preference, each individual has their own path to recovery.
What People in Recovery Need to Consider
Alcoholism and alcohol use disorder can put one’s health and safety at great risk and making the decision to begin recovery is making a decision to put one’s health first.
A person’s recovery is built on a combination of things, from strengths, talents, coping abilities, and resources to support and self-care. When deciding if non-alcoholic drinks are for you during your path to recovery, it is important for those recovering to be aware of their triggers.
The NIAAA breaks this down into two types of triggers:
- External triggers – people, places, things or times of the day that offer drinking opportunities or remind you of drinking.
- Internal triggers – an urge that may have been set off by a fleeting thought, a positive emotion such as excitement, or a negative emotion such as frustration
Once identifying these triggers, the NIAAA offers strategies on how to handle urges to drink in a social situation:
- Remind yourself of your reasons for making a change.
- Talk it through with someone you trust.
- Distract yourself with a healthy alternative activity.
- Challenge the thought that drives the urge.
- Ride it out without giving in.
- Leave tempting situations quickly and gracefully, having your escape plan ready in advance.
Focus on the major dimensions of recovery: health, home, purpose and community to help you make the best decision for your recovery process.
Learn more and find support at Riverside Recovery of Tampa
Because not all non-alcoholic beverages are alcohol-free and most NA drinks contain some traces of alcohol, it may be a less suitable option for those who want or need to stop drinking completely. Recovery depends on the individual and the choice is entirely a personal one.
If you or a loved one is considering non-alcoholic beer or non-alcoholic beverages while in recovery from alcohol, consider whether the rewards of doing so are worth the risk of sobriety.
For more questions, call our team today and learn about effective recovery strategies and how to best manage alcoholism and addiction.