Can You Drink Nonalcoholic Beer While on Antabuse?

Antabuse Reacts With Any Source of Alcohol

Man With Headache
Near Beer Is Not Completely Alcohol Free. © Getty Images

One problem that family members face in trying to support their alcoholic relatives is that often they cannot respond to the actual circumstances because they are not being told the truth. They can't deal with the real situation because they simply do not know what the true circumstances are.

Recently, a reader related a story regarding her husband's use of Antabuse, a medication that is designed to help him stop drinking by making him very ill if he drinks alcohol while taking it.

He made the effort to stop drinking after he was involved in a traffic crash in which he was almost killed.

Drinking Nonalcoholic Beer

"We both knew about Antabuse tablets and have often thought that he should try them, which he has done since the accident," she wrote. "This was our savior and what is keeping our family together.

"However, the past month or so, he has started drinking nonalcohol beer; It started with just one here and there, but now it's becoming a regular occurrence. The past few times he has come home looking like he had been drinking the alcoholic stuff, and I have begun to doubt that he has really been swallowing his Antabuse tablets after all.

"He does look and act a little drunk, but he doesn't get hangovers."

Antabuse Makes You Sick

First of all, nonalcoholic beer -- or NA beer as it is sometimes called -- is not really totally free of alcohol. Typically, most brands of nonalcoholic beer on the market today contain about 1/2 of 1 percent of alcohol.

Antabuse is designed to cause anyone who drinks alcohol while taking it severe discomfort. By interfering with the normal metabolic process of the alcohol, Antabuse can cause a wide range symptoms from mild to very severe.

Typically, anyone who drinks even a small amount of alcohol while taking Antabuse will experience nausea almost immediately.

Antabuse is so sensitive to any intake of alcohol, people have reported having reactions even after rinsing with mouth wash or using after shave containing alcohol.

Not Using Antabuse or NA Beer

Consequently, the wife who related the story about her husband drinking nonalcoholic beer while taking Antabuse is probably being lied to about both. He's probably not taking the Antabuse and he's probably not drinking nonalcoholic beer, either.

This is fairly typical behavior for alcoholics and addicts. Those who are truly addicted will do anything to protect their drug of choice and unfortunately, that includes lying to those who are the closest to them.

Although their dishonesty causes them all kinds of problems at home as well as at work or school, it's not as important to the alcoholic as being able to continue to drink.

For friends and family members dealing with the sometime confusing and frustrating behavior of an alcoholic or an addict, help and support is available in Al-Anon Family Groups from others who are or have been in similar circumstances. For those who sincerely want help getting clean and sober, there are many sources of help available.


New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services.

Antabuse - (Diethylthiocarbamoyl Disulfide). Accessed September 2008.

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