Alcohol poisoning in Russia and the countries in the European part of the former Soviet Union, 1970-2002
European Journal of Public Health, 1–6 (2007)
Background: To investigate the phenomenon of alcohol poisoning in Russia and the countries in the European part of the former Soviet Union in the period 1970–2002. Methods: Four time points were chosen spanning the late Soviet and post-Soviet periods. Data relating to alcohol poisoning deaths were collected at each point for the countries in the region—Belarus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Russia and Ukraine. Age-standardized death rates from alcohol poisoning were subsequently calculated for the total population and separately for men and women. Results: In 1970, the alcohol poisoning rates in the countries in this region were exceptionally high in comparative terms. Rates continued to rise in the late Soviet period in all the countries, only falling in the period following Gorbachev´s anti-alcohol campaign. Mortality from alcohol poisoning became more common amongst women during the study period. In post-Soviet society alcohol poisoning mortality is occurring on an unprecedented scale although there may be some divergence in trends between the Slavic and Baltic countries which had mirrored each other in the Soviet period. Extremely high poisoning rates are probably explained by a combination of the volume of alcohol being consumed, what exactly is drunk and how it is being drunk. The consumption of illicitly produced alcohol in the post-Soviet period may also be contributing to the high mortality rates. Conclusions: Acute alcohol poisoning has now reached unprecedented rates in parts of the ex-USSR with worrying trends among men as well as among women. Effective action by the governments concerned is now essential.
Keywords: alcohol poisoning, alcohol surrogates, Baltic countries, episodic heavy drinking, Russia, women´s drinking