Alcoholism has been a significant problem in Russia for many years but citizens seem resistant to change and have not fully embraced the kind of recovery efforts that are common in the U.S.
Russian leaders have made efforts to fight against the growing numbers of people suffering and even dying from alcoholism in the country but historically many of their attempts haven't worked.
Alcohol recovery is much different in Russia than it is in the U.S. where people with addictions are given extended assistance and have a better rate of successfully becoming sober through programs like AA.
This type of treatment has failed to catch on in Russia where little progress has been made to reduce the national epidemic of alcohol addiction.
High Rates of Alcoholism
Russia's drinking problem extends across the country throughout major cities but is especially an issue in its rural, less populated areas. On average, Russians drink 70 percent more than American citizens according to the World Health Organization's recent reports.
Another report by the Lancet in 2009 estimated that more than half of Russians dying between the ages of 15 and 54 were losing their lives due to excessive drinking. Of all the children in Russia's orphanages, more than half of them suffer from fetal alcohol syndrome.
These types of statistics have concerned a number of Russia's leaders who hoped to curb the level of alcoholism in the country with regulations and measures to deter people from drinking. Unfortunately, the problem of alcohol addiction in Russia remains much the same in spite of efforts to change it.
Different Treatment Methods
The issue of alcoholism in Russia is dealt with through a very different type of treatment program than in America. Instead of using long term recovery programs and support groups like AA, Russian doctors administer a round of detox in a single visit.
Patients are then hypnotized and given a prescription for anti-drinking pills. What Russia seems to lack that could be a major factor in its problem of alcohol abuse are recovery programs that teach people how to be sober and give them the tools to fight addiction.
Alcoholism seems to be treated more as a medical problem due to the physical effects that people experience. instead of the deeply psychological issue that it is considered to be in the U.S. Successful programs like Alcoholics Anonymous have not been as widely accepted in Russia as they are in America.
There are only about 400 AA support groups in the entire country which is very minimal compared to the prevalence of these meetings in the U.S.
Drinking Culture and Change
The question of why Russia seems to suffer so heavily from alcohol addiction could be due to the cultural climate. Drinking is embedded in Russian life as the country makes a huge profit from its production and the government has preserved Russian drinking culture throughout history.
It is only recently that the country's leaders have made efforts to curb the rate of alcoholism through limiting its production or adding taxes on liquor sales. The problem though is that many Russian citizens make drinking alcohol a significant part of their life that regulations will not change.
The focus instead needs to be on improving treatment for alcoholism through support programs like AA which are still only beginning to take hold in the country. The problem still remains of Russia changing its mindset about alcoholism and learning to embrace organizations like AA.
In Russian culture, drinking excessively is rarely considered taboo and it is much harder for people to admit publicly that they are struggling with any kind of psychological problem that could be associated with their alcohol consumption.
As Russia continues to evolve as a country, it is possible that its views of alcoholism will ultimately change but until then addiction remains a major unresolved issue.