The Dangers of Drinking Non-Alcoholic Beer

Even the Smell Can Be a Trigger for Alcoholics

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They call it "near beer" and it may be nearer than you think.

Those trying to abstain from alcohol are warned against the use of non-alcoholic beer, now there may be scientific evidence to support the admonition.

There are many different reasons why people decide not to try so-called non-alcoholic beer, if they wanted to remain sober. Avoiding the temptation is the reason most often offered.

Other than the fact that all "NA" beer does contain a small amount of alcohol, there is now a new study out that seems to support the theory that it can cause a relapse for recovering alcoholics.

Smell of Beer Can Be a Trigger

In the November issue of the Journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, a team of California scientists report that smell may be enough to trigger cravings and a subsequent relapse among certain alcoholics.

In their laboratory experiments, rats were trained to self-administer alcohol or a bitter, white substance called quinine when they smelled either orange or banana. The smell of banana was used when the rats consumed alcohol, while the smell of orange was presented to them when the rats tasted quinine.

Both alcohol and the anticipation of alcohol may raise levels of a brain chemical called dopamine, which plays a role in feelings of elation and pleasure, according to the investigators. The researchers found increases in dopamine in the rats' brains before and after smelling these "alcohol-related cues."

Same Attitude and Behavior?

One danger is developing the same attitudes and behavior while drinking NA Beer as one used to do when drinking the real stuff.

This finding could help explain that phenomenon.

The California study has been cited by scientists as an important step in the possible development of medications that may prevent relapse. As many as 90 percent of alcoholics will experience one relapse in the four years after they quit drinking, according to statistics from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Stay Away If You Want to Remain Sober

Dr. Friedbert Weiss from The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, said, "This is our study's significance: it provides a reliable tool that allows us to investigate brain mechanisms and neurochemical systems so that we can embark on a more educated approach to finding effective medications."

In the meantime, the best advice for those trying to remain sober would be to stay away from anything that even smells like alcohol.

Not Part of a Drug-Free Lifestyle

One of the ways that recovery experts recommend to avoid relapse and maintain sobriety is to develop a drug-free lifestyle in which the person trying to stay sober substitutes healthy activities for behaviors from the past.

Sitting around drinking near beer with the same people in the same places you used to drink, is maintaining your old lifestyle, not developing a new one.

"I tell people to avoid the so-called non-alcoholic beer like the plague," one long-time support-group member told Verywell.

"First, it is not truly non-alcoholic, it does contain a small amount of alcohol which alone could trigger a relapse for some."

"Secondly, it's like playing with fire," he said. "Sooner are later you are going to get burned. There is a saying, 'if you hang around the barbershop long enough, sooner or later you are going to get a haircut.' The same is true for near beer. I've seen it happen too many times."

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