January 2, 1996
Web posted at: 6:50 p.m. EST (2350 GMT)
From Bureau Chief Eileen O'Connor
MOSCOW (CNN) -- Alcoholism in Russia, already a bad problem,
is getting worse. Excessive drinking has been a factor in
most of the nearly 200 freezing deaths in Moscow alone since
November. Some Russian doctors say the situation has reached
epidemic proportions. (493K QuickTime Movie)
"(Alcoholism in Russia) has gotten worse because of the instability in people's lives."
-- Dr. Mikhail Polykorsky
Russians now consume more alcohol per person than any other country in the world. The average man drinks about four gallons of pure alcohol a year, or about a pint of vodka every other day, nearly twice what Americans drink. Russian alcohol consumption is a big factor in lowering male life expectancy to a very young 57 years. That means many Russians die of alcoholism before they retire.
"It has gotten worse because of the instability in people's lives," said Dr. Mikhail Polykorsky, who runs one of Moscow's new private alcoholism clinics, where the fee can run to nearly $80 per session. Using a system he says reinvigorates the brain, Polykorsky claims 95 percent of his patients are no longer dependent on alcohol.
Alcoholics Anonymous clinics also have opened in Moscow, although Polykorsky told CNN he thinks the AA method is too negative. "A person is always stuck to the idea that he is sick and needs help," he said. But AA has a much longer track record worldwide and the Russian government has been following the AA approach. But the collapse of the Russian health system means funding is not always available, so some Russians who need help may not get it.
Social custom is another factor contributing to the rise of alcoholism in Russia. Drinking has practically no negative connotations at any age or social standing.
Excessive drinking has become the leading cause of death in
Russia. As one Moscow newspaper put it -- who needs war when
we have alcohol?
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