In 2010 a pilot study, using semi-structured interviews, was conducted in the Belarusian city Grodno to explore noncommercial alcohol drinking among 51 alcoholics admitted to narcological clinic. The types of surrogates consumed and reasons for their consumption were investigated. The results revealed that every tenth alcoholic regularly consumes moonshine, and about the same number of respondents periodically consumes surrogates, the most popular being medications with a high percentage of ethanol and industrial spirits. The belief that moonshine exceeds state vodka in terms of quality is the main motive for its consumption. Therefore, it is urgent to inform the population about the potential health risks when using moonshine and surrogate alcohols.
Keywords: alcoholics; noncommercial alcohol; drinking pattern; Belarus
The problem of the consumption of noncommercial alcohol in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries attracted the attention of researchers and specialists in the public healthcare field after the epidemic of poisonings by the so-called surrogate alcohols, which swept across Russia and Belarus in 2006. 1-3 During the second half of 2006, about 11 thousand people in 22 regions of Russia came to hospitals with symptoms of poisoning by alcohol surrogates.1 During the forensic chemical analysis of the material from the corpses of those who died as a result of poisoning by surrogates in Russia in 2006, the presence of higher alcohols, their esters and glycols (propanol, isopropanol, butanol, isobutanol, isopropanol, acetone) was discovered, as well as diethyl phthalate and polyhexamethyleneguanidine.4,5 The main macro morphological manifestations of poisonings by substitutes include: severe dystrophic changes in all the internal organs (except the adrenal glands, predominantly liver and kidney damage. This was confirmed by the corresponding clinical picture and the majority of victims developed jaundice with the presence of bile pigments in the lumen of the renal tubules, which was detected by histological examination.6
Despite the extreme urgency of the problem, our knowledge of the prevalence of the consumption of surrogates in CIS, as well as the style and motives of their consumption remains fragmented.7-11 That said, it is necessary to possess knowledge of the social and epidemiological correlates in order to develop a prevention strategy. Isolated studies devoted to this problem suggest that the main consumers of noncommercial alcohol are heavy drinkers, i.e., persons who abuse alcohol and also suffer from alcohol dependence.12
In a recent study conducted in Novosibirsk (Russia), various aspects of the problem of consumption of surrogates among substance abuse clinic patients, including types of surrogates consumed, the pattern of their consumption, and the reasons for their consumption were studied.13 It turned out that all the patients periodically use industrial spirits, medications containing alcohol (Hawthorn tincture), antiseptics, and eau de cologne. The main reason for the popularity of surrogates among people dependent on alcohol is their physical and financial accessibility, since diluted industrial alcohol is three times cheaper than the cheapest vodka. Based on this, the authors conclude that the main reason for the prevalence of the consumption of substitutes is the high price of licensed vodka.
To date, studies devoted to the prevalence of surrogate consumption among the population of heavy drinkers in Belarus have not been conducted. The goal of this pilot study was to fill this gap to some extent by studying the prevalence of the consumption of noncommercial alcohol among substance abuse clinic patients.
SUBJECTS AND METHODS
Fifty one alcohol-dependent men who were treated at the alcohol abuse treatment department of the Grodno Regional Psychoneurologic Dispensary took part in the study. …