Does drinking lite beer keep you from getting drunk?

By David Joel Miller.

Can you avoid alcohol problems by drinking lite and non-alcoholic beers?

The question of drinking lite beers and drinking so-called “non-alcoholic” beers comes up frequently. People who have had problems with alcohol in the past consider switching to these alternatives to reduce the risks. Does this work?

Personally and professionally I do not recommend an approach of limited alcohol consumption to anyone who has experienced a problem with their use of substances in the past. If you have had drunk driving arrests, been diagnosed with substance abuse or dependence or have other psychiatric problems that are affected by alcohol consumption trying to solve the problem by changing to other alcoholic beverages is not likely to work. Why? There are two major problems with this approach.

Lite beers do not contain less alcohol.

The percentage of alcohol in a beer is usually set by state or local law. In California, for a long time, “beer” had to be under 4% alcohol. (I am not a lawyer and can’t tell you if this changed but the principle remains the same.) In other places, beer could have a higher alcohol content say 5% or 6%. Above that limit it can be sold, just the name changes and so does the tax rate.

I checked an online list of beers and their alcohol contents and they mostly ran in the 4% to 6% range. One popular beer Budweiser was listed as having 5% alcohol. Bud Light was listed as having 4.2%. So the difference is small and in places, with lower limits both would have the same amount of alcohol.

Lite beers have fewer calories not less alcohol.So you do not get as full and you can drink more. Whether you drink lite beers or regulars – after four or five you will be legally drunk.

Watch out for the dangers of binge drinking.

Drinking lite beers do not keep you sober! Only not drinking keeps the alcohol out of your system. Any alcohol consumption begins to change your thinking; the difference is how much it affects you not if it will affect you.

Even “nonalcoholic beers” can contain some alcohol.

The online chart I consulted lists “nonalcoholic” Beer as having four tenths of a percent alcohol. So this should be safer. In my experience, it is not. After four or five “non-alcoholic” beers the minimal amounts begin to add up. The cumulative effect is a change in thinking.

For anyone with an alcohol use disorder, the danger here is that after drinking a number of “non-alcoholic” beers they will begin to reason that they can have one or two real ones without a problem.

As any real alcoholic will tell you “one is too many and a thousand is never enough.”

So if you have developed an alcohol problem or if you are taking a prescribed medication that tells you to avoid alcohol, my advice to you is – don’t fool yourself by trying to find ways to use alcohol safely.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog, there is also a Facebook authors page, in its infancy, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at Thanks to all who read this blog.

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One thought on “Does drinking lite beer keep you from getting drunk?

  1. Pingback: Which alcoholic beverage causes the most hangovers, DUI’s and damage to the body? | counselorssoapbox

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