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Russian 'surrogate' alcohols are a killer

  • Heavy alcohol consumption is a major contributing factor to the very high death rate among Russians.
  • Ongoing research shows that many Russians drink "surrogate" alcohols, such as "samogon" or moonshine, medicinal compounds, and other spirits such as aftershave products.
  • New analyses indicate that these products have either very high concentrations of alcohol, or toxic contaminants.

Heavy alcohol consumption contributes to numerous problems in Russia, not the least of which is a very high death rate. In an ongoing study of 25- to 54-year-old Russian men living in an industrial city, researchers have discovered that a significant proportion consume "surrogate" alcohols, otherwise known as products containing alcohol that are not legally sold for consumption. Researchers have now analyzed the contents of these surrogate alcohol products, finding either high alcohol content or toxic contaminants. Results are published in the October issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

"During the past decade we have been investigating reasons for the very high death rate among Russians," said Martin McKee, professor of European public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. "We have been looking in detail at men in Izhevsk, a city in central Russia. While we confirmed what we already knew, that a lot of vodka is drunk in Russia, we also found that a surprisingly large number of people seven percent were drinking substances containing alcohol but not meant to be drunk. We then decided to find out what was in these substances."

"History has shown us that alcohol plays an important role in life, health and death in Russia," added Vladimir M. Shkolnikov, laboratory chief at the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock, Germany. "For example, Mikhail Gorbachev's anti-alcohol campaign that was launched in May 1985; it included heavy reductions in alcohol production
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13-Oct-2005


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