Vice Squad
Friday, February 04, 2005
Alcohol in Russia

Yesterday Vice Squad drew upon the January issue of the journal Addiction to talk about slot machines; today, it's the February issue that catches our attention (but not our link -- the Addiction website is currently down.) There's an article on alcohol in Russia by Alexander Nemtsov, a leading Russian alcohol policy expert. Here's a brief more-or-less random assortment of points drawn from Nemtsov's article:

Before World War I, per capita alcohol consumption in Russia was less than 1/3 of that in Western European countries such as the UK, Spain, France, and Italy. The big increase in alcohol consumption in Russia started only in the early 50s, but continued up to Gorbachev's anti-alcohol campaign of 1985.

Just today The Lancet published an article indicating that alcohol is responsible for about 4 percent of 'the global burden of disease.' Nemtsov notes that alcohol is connected with about 4 percent of the deaths in the European Union and Norway. But in Russia, well, the drinking situation is vastly more severe: more than 30 percent of deaths are directly or indirectly tied to alcohol. [Vice Squad has previously noted the almost unbelievable extent of acute alcohol poisoning in Russia.]

I'll close by quoting Nemtsov's paragraph on treatment for alcoholism in Russia:
The most common form of treatment is in Russia is [sic] directive suggestive psychotherapy, undertaken during a single consultation. This so-called 'coding', based on the work of Dovzhenko, seems at best to have only a placebo effect. It has never been evaluated, but its widespread use is consistent with the beliefs of the Soviet population. Psychopharmacotherapy is provided in hospitals and in dispensaries but family and group psychotherapy are rarely used in Russia. Treatment of alcoholic dependence achieves relatively poor outcomes.

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