Staunton, February 9—Over the last decade, Russian officials have routinely celebrated what they say is a decline in alcohol consumption by the population, presenting statistics which show that the per capita annual intake of alcohol has fallen by almost 50 percent, from 18 liters of pure alcohol a year to only 9.3.
That is still among the highest rates in the world, but Yevgeny Bryun, a specialist on alcoholism at the Russian health ministry says that those figures fail to capture alcohol brewed at home or unregistered and untaxed by the authorities (“samogon”) and that the actual level of consumption in Russia is 12 liters a year.
That figure is worrisome because of its impact on public health, he says; but even more worrisome is the fact that “30 percent of Russians” misuse alcohol but only two percent of the population is registered by doctors or other health experts. These represent hidden alcoholics (newizv.ru/news/society/10-02-2020/v-minzdrave-30-rossiyan-nazvali-tihimi-alkogolikami/rrr).
He defines the misuse of alcohol as being the consumption of 50 ml of strong alcohol on a daily basis. “After a month of such consumption,” he says, the impact of alcohol on the liver is clear. Such people, however, “do not turn” to doctors. “they are the quiet alcoholics: they come home, drink a bottle of vodka, go to sleep and 20 years later die.”
Most are men – their number exceeds the number of women four to one. Following his announcement, Bryun was pressed by Russian news agencies to say that he was not talking about some “hidden” alcoholics but rather about the misuse of alcohol. He said that he wants to see serious sociological studies done on this problem but to date there haven’t been any.
Meanwhile, experts at the Moscow Physical-Technical University offered data confirming Bryun’s words. Citing Britain’s Lancet, they said that WHO figures show that cirrhosis of the liver has increased in Russia by 60 percent (vestikavkaza.ru/news/vdvoe-bolshe-rossiyan-boleyut-tsirrozom.html and thelancet.com/journals/langas/article/PIIS2468-1253(19)30349-8/fulltext).
In 1991, 2.5 million Russians suffered from cirrhosis; now, four million do. How much of this is caused by better diagnostics and how much by more consumption of alcohol, however, remains uncertain.