Russians, known for love of Vodka and heavy alcohol consumption, are turning towards potentially lethal moonshine as the country’s economy continues to worsen, the Associated Press reports. In some cases, people are even drinking medical alcohol and cleaning products to achieve a fix.
Alcoholism in Russia has long been a public health crisis, but with recent wage cuts, layoffs, and price increases, more people are turning to alcohol to cope with their tribulations. As the price of alcohol increases, many drinkers are forced to resort to questionable sources of alcohol which can be lethal, according to the article.
Liquor and beer sales have dropped dramatically, vodka sales fell 17.6 percent by volume and two percent by value, but experts contend that this is not due to a drop in demand. People are turning towards moonshine, industrial spirits, liquids designed “for hair growth or for cleaning the bath,” says market analyst Vadim Drobiz.
“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 the Alcospas chain of alcohol rehab clinics in Moscow.
The makers of moonshine are often inexperienced and use ingredients that can be dangerous to the consumer. Left with no alternative, drinkers are willing to take the risk.
“Today the share of illegal vodka market adds up to half of the total market,” said Nielsen analyst Marina Lapenkova. She added that the recession will only exacerbate the problem.
In Russia, home distilling for personal consumption is legal, which is rare for an industrialized nation, the article reports. In fact, not all moonshine is low quality, old-fashioned moonshine, called samogon, is a traditional activity for Russians.
“People do it to get a product where they know what it’s made from and how it’s made,” said alcohol still retailer, Rishat Ibatullin.