Can You Drink Non Alcoholic Beer On Antabuse (disulfiram)?

For many, the choice to switch to non alcoholic beer is a deeply personal one. Alcohol has the ability to ruin lives and many want to move away from it but still enjoy the taste of beer. Some people need a helping hand to quit alcohol and this can come via drug called Antabuse (disulfiram). However, this is designed to react badly with alcohol so… can you drink non alcoholic beer on Antabuse?

Can you drink non alcoholic beer on Antabuse?

You can drink up to 2.5 12fl oz cans of non alcoholic beer before you would reach the minimum blood alcohol concentration where a reaction with Antabuse might occur. Initial symptoms would be very mild so more severe symptoms would not occur until after many more.

Can you drink alcohol free beer on Antabuse?

You can drink up to 25 12fl oz cans of alcohol free beer before you would reach the minimum blood alcohol concentration where a reaction with Antabuse might occur. You would been to drink more than 50 alcohol free beers to get any more severe symptoms.

What is Antabuse?

Antabuse is the trade name for Disulfiram.

Disulfiram works by inhibiting the enzyme acetaldehyde dehydrogenase, causing many of the effects of a hangover to be felt immediately following alcohol consumption. 

This doesn’t really sound like a pleasant drug, so the question is, why would you be prescribed disulfiram? The answer lies in the trade name “Antabuse” – it is an attempt to stop alcohol abuse.

Why might you been prescribed Antabuse?

Antabuse (Disulfiram) is used to treat chronic alcoholism. It causes unpleasant effects when even small amounts of alcohol are consumed.

These effects include flushing of the face, headache, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, weakness, blurred vision, mental confusion, sweating, choking, breathing difficulty, and anxiety.

These effects begin about 10 minutes after alcohol enters the body and last for 1 hour or more. Disulfiram is not a cure for alcoholism, but discourages drinking.

What happens when you drink alcohol on Antabuse?

The purpose of Antabuse is to induce all the nasty hangover symptoms you don’t want and then some. It stops you drinking more alcohol as the symptoms get worse and worse until you physically can’t drink any more.

Below are all the symptoms you can expect as you drink more alcohol when taking Antabuse.

Body Part AffectedModerateSevere
Body skinSweating
Warmth and flushing, particularly on upper chest and face
Respiratory systemHyperventilation
Respiratory difficulty/dyspnea
Respiratory depression
Head, neck, throatAcetaldehyde breath odor
Blurred vision
Head and neck throbbing
Stomach, digestive systemNausea/vomitingNone
Chest, heart, circulatory systemChest pain/palpitations
Cardiovascular collapse
Myocardial infarction (in individuals with preexisting coronary artery disease)
Acute congestive heart failure (in individuals with preexisting myocardial dysfunction)
Brain/ nervous systemVertigo
Marked uneasiness
Antabuse effects with alcohol

How much alcohol is needed to cause a reaction with Antabuse?

The reaction is generally proportional to the amounts of disulfiram and alcohol ingested. Mild effects may occur at blood alcohol concentrations of 5 to 10 mg/100 mL. At 50 mg/100 mL, effects usually are fully developed. When the concentration reaches 125 to 150 mg/100 mL, unconsciousness may occur.

How many beers is 5mg/100ml or 0.005% BAC?

The CDC state that it takes the average 160lb, adult male, 4 standard alcoholic drinks to get drunk. That means to get a BAC of 0.08%, which is also the usual drunk driving limit.

That means that at 1/16th of the amount of alcohol needed to get drunk, you might start to develop unpleasant symptoms. That equated to about a quarter of a 12fl oz can of beer.

At just over half the alcohol needed to get drunk, you would have fully developed symptoms. That is a little under 2 standard beers.

As you can see, this really isn’t a big margin for error. A few mouthfuls of beer and you can develop symptoms.

How much alcohol is in non alcoholic beer?

Non alcoholic beer still have beer in the title and it has a certain percentage of alcohol by volume on the can, so just how much alcohol is in it?

There are lots of different terminologies and phrases in the non alcoholic world. Ive written a full article on what all the names mean and how to navigate your way around it, you can read it here.

A non alcoholic beer has an ABV of 0.5% or less.

To get a clearer idea of just how low these figures are, you can look at some common foods and drinks that contain alcohol. Fruit juices have more alcohol by volume than non alcoholic beer and even some breads do!

To read more about the surprising alcohol in common foods, you can read more about it here.

How much alcohol is in alcohol free beer?

An alcohol free beer has to have an ABV of under 0.05% compared to a non alcoholic beer at 0.5%. That means the average non alcoholic beer has x10 the alcohol that an alcohol free beer has.

How much non alcoholic beer can you drink before a reaction with Antabuse?

I have calculated that it would take you to drink 40 12fl oz non alcoholic beers to get drunk. You can read all about the calculations here.

Dividing 40 by 16 will give the non alcoholic equivalent of the minimum BAC you start to get symptoms at.

This means you can drink 2.5 12fl oz cans of non alcoholic beer before you might start to get any symptoms with Antabuse.

How much alcohol free beer can you drink before a reaction with Antabuse?

Due to the fact alcohol free beers only have 10% of the alcohol of a non alcoholic beer, there is much more room to play with.

Using the same math, you would be able to drink 25 alcohol free beers before any risk of symptoms with Antabuse.

Should you drink non alcoholic beer on Antabuse?

Probably the more difficult question to answer is should you drink non alcoholic beer on Antabuse.

The “can” just involves math but the “should” requires some deeper thinking and is best left for a separate article. Is non alcoholic beer a gateway for alcoholics back to alcohol? Is it safe for recovering or recovered alcoholics to drink and not relapse? These are difficult questions to answer.

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