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Article Summary

The Danger of Non-Alcoholic Beer

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.

Avoid The Temptation

Recently in a topic discussion in our Alcoholism Forum, a visitor was given many different reasons why others had decided not to try so-called non-alcoholic beer, if they wanted to remain sober. Avoiding the temptation was 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.

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." One visitor to our Forum said her family member seemed to develop the same attitudes and behavior while drinking NA Beer as he used to do when he was drinking the real stuff. This finding could help explain that phenomenon.

Preventing Relapse

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.

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 find 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.

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