The composition of surrogate alcohols consumed in Russia

European Centre on Health of Societies in Transition, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, United Kingdom.
Alcoholism Clinical and Experimental Research (Impact Factor: 3.21). 11/2005; 29(10):1884-8.
Source: PubMed


In the course of a case-control study examining determinants of premature death among working age men, it became clear that a significant percentage of the population (7.3%) were drinking a variety of surrogate alcohol products (products not legally sold for consumption). In this population, where there is a high death rate from alcohol-related causes, including acute alcohol poisoning, it was important to know what these products contained.
The identity of products being consumed was identified from the survey of controls. Representative samples were obtained and subjected to analysis using gas chromatography and mass spectrometry to determine their composition.
Three broad groups of product were identified: samogon (home-produced spirits); medicinal compounds; and other spirits (mainly sold as aftershaves). Commercially produced vodkas were used for comparison. Samogon contained lower quantities of ethanol than vodka [mean, 39 vs. 44 volumetric percentage (v/v%), respectively] but in addition contained certain toxic long-chain alcohols. Medicinal compounds contained only ethanol, at a higher concentration that vodka (mean, 66 v/v%), while the other spirits, which were also essentially pure ethanol, contained a mean of 94 v/v%.
A significant number of Russian men are drinking products that have either very high concentrations of ethanol or contaminants known to be toxic. These products are untaxed and thus much less expensive than vodka. There is an urgent need for policy responses that target their production and consumption.

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    • "Cheapness was quoted commonly as a reason for moonshine consumption [9] [19]. It appears, however, that for almost half of the respondents, the main motive for consuming samogon is the belief that it is a chemically purer product than the licensed vodka. "
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    • "Medicinal and surrogate alcohol contained 70% vol of alcohol on average. Similarly, McKee et al. (2005) "
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    • "The first group, which contained the majority of articles were broadly classified as a " policy need " category. They identified certain detrimental health effects of unrecorded alcohol and concluded that there was a need for alcohol policy measures or interventions (hence the inclusion of these key words in the articles) (Gorgulho & Da Ros, 2006; John et al., 2009; Kanteres, Lachenmeier, & Rehm, 2009; Kurian, Kuruvilla, & Jacob, 2006; Lachenmeier, Kanteres, & Rehm, 2009; Lachenmeier, Lima, et al., 2010; Lachenmeier & Rehm, 2009; Lachenmeier, Rehm, & Gmel, 2007; Lachenmeier et al., in press; Lachenmeier & Sohnius, 2008; Lang, Väli, Szücs, Ádány, & McKee, 2006; Leitz, Kuballa, Rehm, & Lachenmeier, 2009; Leon et al., 2007; Leon, Shkolnikov, & McKee, 2009; Lindström, 2005; Luginaah & Dakubo, 2003; MacDonald, Wells, & Giesbrecht, 1999; McKee et al., 2005; Norström, 1998; Onya & Flisher, 2006; Pärna, Lang, Raju, Väli, & McKee, 2007; Pomerleau et al., 2008; Popova, Rehm, Patra, & Zatonski, 2007; Rehm, Klotshce, et al., 2007; Rehm et al., 2003; Rehm, Sulkowska, et al., 2007; Rehm et al., 2009; Rehm, Kanteres, et al., 2010; Rehm, Taylor, et al., 2010; Zaridze et al., 2009). This category further includes observational literature on the problem of cross-border shopping in Nordic countries particularly (Bygvrå, 2009; Grittner & Bloomfield, 2009; Lavik & Nordlund, 2009; Mäkelä, Bloomfield, Gustafsson, Huhtanen, & Room, 2008; Ramstedt & Gustafsson, 2009; Svensson, 2009). "
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