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While the Russian government continues to dominate headlines in the United States, a quiet tragedy occurred late in 2016 to a community in the Siberian city of Irkutsk. Novo-Lenino, a neighborhood of Russia’s sixth largest city, is coming to grips with the deaths of 49 people that drank Hawthorn Lotion, a bathing liquid made with alcohol.
Though the fatal methanol poisonings all happened in the same area, those affected were not drinking together. CBS News describes the victims as “socially disadvantaged people aged 35 to 50, including several women.” As of the last report, eight people were hospitalized in grave condition.
Unfortunately, Russians are no strangers to the disease of alcoholism.
“Russian death rates have fluctuated wildly over the past 30 years as alcohol restrictions and social stability varied under Presidents Gorbachev, Yeltsin and Putin, and the main thing driving these wild fluctuations in death was vodka,” Sir Richard Peto of the University of Oxford Britain told reporters.
What are the Statistics of the Lancet Study on Drinking in Russia?
Peto co-authored a 2014 study, published in the Lancet that found the following:
- Of the 150,000 Russian men studied, those that drank three or more bottles of vodka a day were twice as likely to die prematurely than men who drank less than a bottle a week
- During the 10 year study, 8,000 participants died
- 25 percent of all Russian men die before the age 55 compared to 7 percent in the UK
“Since the average life expectancy for men in Russia is still only 64 years, ranking in the lowest 50 countries in the world, more alcohol and tobacco policy measures are urgently needed,” a director at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto said in response to the study.
Social Issues Can Confound Substance Abuse
In countries around the globe, poverty, desperation and addiction are common factors when people are driven to extreme measures, in this case drinking bath lotion containing alcohol.
Russia has seen a similar crisis of desperation and substance abuse with Krokodil.
The cheap and deadly heroin substitute is so named because its toxic makeup starts to eat flesh and organs, causing gangrene, if used for prolonged periods.
Mental health and addiction are not political problems. They afflict citizens of every country in the world. Oppression, social unrest, violence and poverty, which cities in the U.S. are by no means immune from, create despair and many people numb the pain with alcohol, drugs or whatever is accessible.
As Russian officials attempt to cope with this recent tragedy, Americans must continue to fight the misconception of addiction as a moral failure.
Drug and alcohol abuse is brought on by any number of factors, such as mental health, genetics, physical and sexual abuse and other trauma. Regardless of its root cause, it is a chronic disease that anyone can overcome and maintain when given access to proper treatment.