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Alcohol Addiction in Russia

Russia now acknowledges alcohol addiction as a problem. Previously, alcoholism and other harmful habits formed part of the assumed degenerate lifestyle of the western world, thus alcoholism was not considered as a problem (Fleming, Bradbeer, & Green, 2001). Presently, Russia is encountering an alcohol mortality crisis. Leon, Shkolnikov, and McKee (2009) report that in 2003-05, 43 percent of deaths of young men between the age of 23 and 25 in Izhevsk city, Western Russia were attributable to alcoholism.

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The health impact of alcohol in Russia is most notable in its contribution to mortality through cardiovascular diseases. Many alcohol-poisoning deaths that occur in Russia falsely fall under circulatory deaths. However, the study by Leon, Shkolnikov, and McKee (2009) proves that most of the deaths occur because of alcoholic cardiomyopathy. Alcoholic effects on the myocardium implicate chronic effects on the myocardium to cause the condition. Death is precipitated by a final alcohol binge. Although studies have proved that binge drinking increases cardiovascular disease-related deaths, the number of sudden cardiac deaths remains low (Nicholson, 2005).

In Russia, men drink alcohol more than women (Nicholson, 2005). Differences in the prevalence of alcohol drinking also emerge in educational groups where university-educated men drink less alcohol than their uneducated counterparts. In families, married men tend to consume less alcohol compared to divorced men and single men. Lastly, alcoholism is widespread among unemployed Russians. In addition, heavy drinking among the working population is to blame for most job dismissals. Consequently, alcoholism in Russia leads to a negative economic effect of increasing unemployment more than it improves economic returns.

The group of binge drinkers in Russia needs recognition in the public health care programs. The confirmation of the role of alcoholism on the deaths related to circulatory conditions is evident in the fact that the heavy drinkers of Russia are a vulnerable group. While major population changes in Russia in the past are attributable to societal changes, the emerging literature points out that alcohol may be one of the mechanisms that lead to the rapid demographic change in a few decades (Malyutina, et al., 2002).

Most Russians drink to cope with stress (Leon, Scholnikov, & McKee, 2009). The privatization of the 1990s following economic reforms in the country also contribute to unemployment, which increases population stress levels. Isolation of alcoholics from community engagements is the main cause of binge drinking problems as a result of the social deprivation of the victim (Leon, Scholnikov, & McKee, 2009).

A criticism to Russian health authorities has been that they react to crises instead of building up programs to prevent diseases systematically (Aris, 2003). On a brighter note, the country now trains doctors in psychiatry to ensure that they are capable of dealing with addiction problems (Fleming, Bradbeer, & Green, 2001). Historically, Russia as part of the USSR helped develop the Alma-Ata Approach to health for all in 1978, but never took part in the implementation of the program that was to take care of primary care services (Tulchinsky & Varavikova, 1996).

Current health programs in Russia need to assign the highest priority to reducing alcohol and other risk factors. There is a need to improve existing programs and introduce new programs that are well planned on a national regional and local scale. The gravity of the matter is readable from the State Statistic Committee estimates of a population reduction from 148 million in 1992 to 134 million in 2016 (Tulchinsky & Varavikova, 1996). The ministry of health in Russia needs to overlook monetary and fiscal state benefits from alcohol and increase the zeal of promoting government policies for the reduction of alcohol-related health problems.

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A little progress happens on health care development in Russia with the realization of the alcohol hazard. Nevertheless, the country should embrace an overhaul of its health and incorporate new objectives. These include the preservation of universal access to healthcare, the establishment of national targets to meet World Health Organization (WHO) levels and making healthcare at par with international standards. Nurses may ameliorate the alcoholism problem in Russia by conducting community guiding and counseling sessions. They should also be responsive and understand their patients who may be suffering from isolation due to their alcoholism. Lastly, nurses should be investigative of patient medical history to assist doctors in judging causes of circulatory illnesses to ensure that all alcoholic-related cases are noted early.


Aris, B. (2003). Russia’s health crisis fuels 20-year cut in lifespan estimates. Lancet, 362(9395), 1557.

Fleming, P., Bradbeer, T., & Green, A. (2001). Substance misuse problems in Russia: a perspective from St Petersberg. The Psychiatrist, 25, 27-28.

Leon, D. A., Scholnikov, V. M., & McKee, M. (2009). Alcohol and Russian mortality: a continuing crisis. Addiction, 104, 1630-1636.

Malyutina, S., Bobak, M., Kurilovitch, S., Gafarov, V., Simonova, G., Nikitin, Y., et al. (2002). Relation between heavy and binge drinking and all-cause and cardiovascular mortality in Novosibirsk, Russia: a prospective cohort study. Lancet, 360(9344), 1448.

Nicholson, A., Bobak, M., Murphy, M., Rose, R., & Marmot, M. (2005). Alcohol consumption and increased mortality in Russian men and women: a cohort study based on the mortality of relatives. Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 83(11), 812-819.

Tulchinsky, T. H., & Varavikova, E. A. (1996). Addressing the Former Soviet Union: Strategies for health care policy and reform. American Journal of Public Health, 86, 313-320.

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