With the holiday season upon us, we often find that alcohol is everywhere. Family and friends are often drinking a lot. And there isn’t, necessarily, anything wrong with that. But for people in recovery, the holiday season can be especially nerve-wracking and it can feel awkward to be the only person around not drinking. Which makes it all the more tempting to want to feel a part of the festivities with a non-alcoholic beer or glass of non-alcoholic wine in your hand. There is even non-alcoholic tequila now.

But are non-alcoholic adult beverages actually safe for alcoholics?

Below, we are going to break down what non-alcoholic adult beverages are and discuss whether or not they are safe for an alcoholic–in recovery or not.

Non-alcoholic adult beverages or Mocktails

What are Non-Alcoholic Adult Beverages?

Non-alcoholic beverages, most commonly, “non-alcoholic beer,” are almost exactly what they sound like– adult beverages posed as being a safe alternative to drinking alcohol. However, calling these drinks non-alcoholic is only a partial truth.

Non-alcoholic beer and wine still contain alcohol–just at a much lower level. The average ABV (alcohol by volume) of a non-alcoholic beer is just 0.05%, while regular beer has an ABV of 5% or higher.

How are Non-Alcoholic Adult Beverages Made?

There are 2 ways that non-alcoholic beer and wine are made:

1)    Removing Alcohol From the Finished Product

The first way that non-alcoholic beverages are made is by producing your average beer and wine–and removing the alcohol from the finished product. Most commonly, the alcohol is heated until the ethanol evaporates. Another common method involves passing the liquid through a filter that removes the ethanol.

2)    Making Sure Alcohol Does Not Form During the Process

Another common method of crafting alcohol-free beverages is to ensure that alcohol does not form during the creation process. Take beer, for instance–this can be achieved by filtering out the yeast or pasteurizing it.

Why Do Non-Alcoholic Drinks Still Contain Alcohol?

If these drinks are meant to be non-alcoholic, why do they still contain alcohol?

These drinks still contain alcohol, because alcohol naturally forms during the brewing or crafting process. So, to say that these beverages are not at all alcoholic is misleading.

However, because of the low ABV, these beverages cannot get you drunk, because your body processes alcohol faster than you can drink non-alcoholic beverages.

Are Non-Alcoholic Drinks Safe for Alcoholics?

So, are Non-Alcoholic Drinks Safe for Alcoholics to consume? The short answer is NO!

Because it is virtually impossible to get drunk on non-alcoholic beverages, it is easy to assume that they are safe for the alcoholic. However, since they do contain small amounts of alcohol, they can trigger the release of endorphins–the “feel-good” chemicals in your brain. For someone who has spent substantial amounts of time drinking, the release of this feel-good chemical may be enough to trigger the desire for the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th drink. Or worse–a full-blown relapse.

Additionally, non-alcoholic beer and wine are crafted to taste like, well… beer and wine. This flavor can trigger euphoric recall–a state where an alcoholic can exaggerate a positive experience of the past, without remembering the negative experiences that come along with it. Such instances are extremely dangerous for a person in recovery from alcoholism, and easily can drive them back to actively drinking.

And an alcoholic may be able to drink one non-alcoholic beer without consequences. But if you are an alcoholic in recovery, the big question is: why risk it?

Holiday Alternatives

Rather than take the risk, here are some suggestions for drinks that contain no alcohol to try this holiday season:

  • Cranberry Ginger Shrub- Cranberry, ginger, and cinnamon with club soda.
  • Homemade Apple (or Pear) Cider- Made with apples (or pears) and cinnamon.
  • Thai Iced Tea- Made with black tea, spices, and condensed milk.
  • Other Mocktails. Mocktails are drinks that are made similarly to alcoholic drinks but that contain no alcohol. Mocktails are becoming increasingly popular, both by people that are sober, but also people that do not necessarily have a problem with alcohol but who want to limit their alcohol intake for the purpose of living a more healthy lifestyle.

You can find more suggestions on websites such as Delish and Country Living.

There are plenty of options to choose from. Pick one and get crafting. You certainly won’t feel as left out at your next holiday gathering.

Bottom Line

The bottom line is that if you are an alcoholic, in recovery or not, non-alcoholic adult beverages are potentially unsafe. They still contain alcohol and, while they cannot get you intoxicated, they do have the potential to trigger a relapse. If you have alcoholism, it’s just not worth the risk.

If you or someone you know needs help for addiction or co-occurring disorder issues, please give us a call. Maryland Addiction Recovery Center offers the most comprehensive dual-diagnosis addiction treatment in the Mid-Atlantic area. If we aren’t the best fit for you or your loved one, we will take the necessary time to work with you to find a treatment center or provider that better fits your needs. Please give us a call at (866) 929-4318 or email our team at info@marylandaddictionrecovery.com. For more information on all of our drug addiction, alcohol addiction, and co-occurring disorder services and recovery resources, please visit our website at www.marylandaddictionrecovery.com.

This blog post was authored by Matti Ben-Lev.