Is Non-Alcoholic Beer Considered a Relapse?

“Is non-alcoholic beer considered a relapse?” I asked myself.  Most people working a 12-step recovery program will avoid anything that  contains traceable amounts of alcohol and at .05%, drinking non-alcoholic beer is to be dodged.

Drinking non-alcoholic beer is like walking on a slippery slope according to The Journal’s November issue: Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research. In the publication a team of California scientists report, “smell may be enough to trigger cravings and a subsequent relapse among certain alcoholics.” Scientists trained rats to self-administer beer and a bitter liquid, flavored banana and orange respectively. Alcohol and the anticipation of alcohol increased the levels of the brain chemical dopamine in the rats. Dopamine levels, which play a role in feelings of euphoria and pleasure, increased in the rats’ brains before and after smelling the “alcohol-related cues.”

Just the word, “beer,” can trigger the anticipation of a drink and cause salivation. The ritual of cracking open the bottle or popping the can, triggers some people. The smell can cause a craving, and the taste, though not exact, reminds many people of drinking the real thing.

Alcoholics and drug addicts are people who have lived in denial and attempted to bend the rules wherever and whenever possible. It is the nature of the beast and if there is a loophole, someone with an addiction problem will find it. Would a recovering heroin addict use a needle injected with non-opioid heroin? You might think it has nothing to do with a Near Beer, but doesn’t it? Grey areas to addicts and alcoholics are danger zones to be avoided at all costs. Non-alcoholic beer exists in that fuzzy, grey area that people trip over all the time.

Anything that could potentially damage sobriety isn’t worth it.  The “duck test” is a good idiom: if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck…chances are…it’s a duck. It’s called “beer,” it’s made to look like “beer,” taste like “beer,” and it’s advertised to refresh like “beer.” The decision to drink a non-alcoholic beer is a personal one and no one can decide this but the individual. Exercising some self-examination is a good way to find out:

Do I feel out of place and hoping I’ll feel more apart of if I drink non-alcoholic beer?

Does non-alcoholic beer remind me of the real thing?

Am I romancing the drink? (getting pleasure from pretending I am a drinker)

Am I ambivalent about my recovery and romancing the old days?

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that as many as 90% of alcoholics will experience one relapse in the four years after they quit drinking. With this information, doesn’t it seem like a smart idea to stay away from anything that will weaken your resolve and give more power to a disease that is know for being, “cunning, baffling and powerful?”

Last Updated on May 24, 2022


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