More Russians Turning to Cheap, Dangerous Alcohol Alternatives

By May Wilkerson 03/27/15

Russia's worsening economy has led to its citizens turning to more dangerous substances.

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Russia’s growing economic crisis has led to a dangerous trend where people are consuming cheaper and potentially fatal substitutes for alcohol, like moonshine, medical alcohol, or even cleaning products, the Associated Press reports.

Layoffs and wage cuts are contributing to a rise in Russia’s already widespread problem with alcoholism. In recent years, the government has attempted to combat the problem by instituting a legal minimum price for spirits, like vodka.

But though beer and vodka sales have significantly dropped, analysts say this is a sign that more people are turning to “under the counter” alternatives purchased on the black market, especially in more remote, rural areas.

These products range from vodka sold illegally from legitimate distilleries, to illegally brewed industrial spirits or moonshine, which can be lethal. There has also been a rise in consumption of cleaning or hair products, which is especially dangerous.

"A number of patients who previously could afford expensive spirits are now forced to reorient in the sense that they use cheaper and lower-quality spirits," says Alexander Polikarpov, the head doctor of a Moscow chain of alcohol rehab clinics.

Polikarpov says he’s seen a “wave” of medical complications among patients, such as delirium tremens from alcohol withdrawal, and epilepsy.

Russia is home to the fourth-heaviest drinking country in the world based on per capita consumption, according to World Health Organization data from 2010.

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May Wilkerson is a writer, comic and Managing Editor @someecards. Co-host of the podcast Crazy; In Bed w/alyssalimp. She is also the top Google result for "insufferable lunatic." Follow this insufferable lunatic on Twitter.