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In a recent blog post, we discussed how there were approximately 38 million Americans, most not even alcoholics, who “drank too much.” This meant they were consuming, on average, about fifteen or more standard “drinks” per week, or even binging on five or more “drinks” at any given time. We also mentioned that of those 38 million, 79,000 would go on to suffer premature deaths. The fact is that this phenomenon is much more widespread, happening all over the world to men and women who drink more alcohol in a given day than water in a week.

Take Russia, for example. With the already-low average life expectancy of 64 years for men, you can imagine the impact that constant, consistent drinking can have on their lives. You thought alcohol controlling your life was bad, but what about when it’s so ingratiated into a society that it actually controls the death rate? According to a recent study conducted by members of the Russian Cancer Research Centre in Moscow, alcohol—namely vodka—is responsible for the deaths of 25% of all men under the age of 55.

One of the study’s authors, Prof. Sir Richard Peto of Medical Statistics and Epidemiology at the University of Oxford, says:

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. This has been shown in retrospective studies, and now we’ve confirmed it in a big, reliable prospective study.

The article, posted on Medical News Today, notes that the study confirmed fluctuations in the Russia’s death rates that corresponded with laws and restrictions either limiting access to alcohol, or enabling it. The most recent change came to the nation’s citizenry through its 2006 alcohol policy reforms. When enacted, the date showed a marked decrease in the number of deaths of men under the age of 55.

The study itself comprised of 151,000 Russians whose vodka-drinking habits were recorded by researchers for up to a decade. By the end, 8,000 had succumbed to symptoms ranging from alcohol poisoning to heart disease. And remember, like here in America, many of these men and women may very well have not even been alcoholics.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel, however; according to lead author of the study, Prof. David Zaridze: “People who drink spirits in hazardous ways greatly reduce their risk of premature death as soon as they stop.”

Not as easy as it sounds, to be sure, but if government regulations of alcohol consumption have shown to have worked in the past, why shouldn’t they continue to work. What is needed are better, more efficient reform policies for alcohol use, abroad and at home.

What do you think?