Hard Seltzers: Addiction, Side Effects, and Dangers

2 min read · 4 sections
For a long time, the alcohol industry mainly produced beverages categorized as beer, wine, or spirits, but in recent years, a fourth category of ready-to-drink elixirs has skyrocketed in popularity. These drinks include wine coolers, canned cocktails, and hard seltzers.

What are Hard Seltzers?

Hard seltzers consist of clear carbonated water mixed with an alcohol base—usually derived from fermented cane sugar—and flavored with real fruit or natural flavors. Most hard seltzers are free of gluten and contain 4%-7% alcohol by volume (ABV). Less alcohol means less calories, which is part of the appeal for some. Many of them are low carb and low in sugar, too.

Dangers Associated with Hard Seltzers

Many hard seltzers market themselves as a healthier alternative to other alcoholic drinks. The truth of the matter is hard seltzer is not a healthier option. Like other beverages containing alcohol, hard seltzers are empty calories void of any real nutrients. Additionally, studies show that alcohol—even in small amounts—can increase your risk of certain cancers and other health problems.1,2

Because hard seltzers have a lower ABV and don’t make you feel full when you drink them, it can be easy to drink more than you intend to, even binge drink them. Heavy consumption means drinking 8 or more alcoholic beverages each week for women and 15 or more for men.

In the short term, binge or heavy drinking can lead to a number of harmful circumstances, including:3

  • Injuries, such as automobile accidents, falls, and drownings.
  • Violence, including suicide and sexual assault.
  • Alcohol poisoning.
  • Risky behaviors, like having unprotected sex.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), if a person engages in problematic drinking—including binge and heavy drinking—regularly or almost daily, they have an increased risk of developing an alcohol use disorder.4

When Does Drinking Become a Problem?

While there’s no evidence to suggest that an individual can become addicted to hard seltzers specifically, the chronic use of any beverage containing alcohol can lead to negative consequences, including addiction.

Only a medical or mental healthcare professional can diagnose an alcohol use disorder. In clinical settings, they use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5) as part of a comprehensive assessment.5 However, it can be helpful to recognize some of the signs, which include:6

  • Drinking hard seltzers (or other alcoholic beverages) in larger amounts or over a longer period than originally intended.
  • Spending a great deal of time obtaining alcohol, consuming it, or recovering from its effects.
  • Failing to fulfill responsibilities at school, work, or home because of recurrent alcohol use.
  • Continuing to use alcohol despite having persistent or recurrent social or relationship problems caused by or exacerbated by it.
  • Using alcohol in hazardous situations, like operating a vehicle, which can result in a DUI or worse.

Treatment and Outlook

If you think you or someone you love might be drinking too much or too often, you should start by talking to your primary care physician, licensed therapist, or addiction treatment specialist. They can perform an assessment, discuss treatment options, and provide referrals for treatment.7

Evidence-based treatment that’s tailored to your specific needs and combines behavioral therapies, mutual-help groups, and medication (if necessary) can help you stop drinking and regain control of your life.7

Individuals with an alcohol use disorder typically begin treatment with medically managed detoxification before transitioning to a more comprehensive treatment plan in an inpatient or outpatient setting.

American Addiction Centers (AAC) is a leading provider of treatment for alcohol misuse and addiction and has treatment centers located throughout the United States. We offer a variety of levels of care and customized treatment plans that are geared to your unique needs. Call to speak to one of our compassionate and knowledgeable admissions navigators, who can listen to your story, answer your questions, explain your treatment options, verify your insurance, and help you begin your road to recovery.

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