Alcohol drinking in Russia is taking a turn for the worse, as it appears that vodka has helped send 37 percent of the male population in Russia to their graves in 2005 alone.

The figures emerged amid the Russian government's campaigns to curb heavy drinking. The study, published on the online journal Lancet, aims to inquire into the possible causes of the extraordinarily high rates of premature death in Russian males.

The researchers interviewed about 150,000 adults in the Russian cities of Barnaul, Byisk, and Tomsk within the years 1999-2008. After some time, after about 8,000 of these respondents have died, the researchers investigated into the causes of their death.

The study found that of those who consumed more than a liter and a half of vodka per week, 35 percent died between the ages of 35 and 54. Those who drank less and died before age 54 comprised only 16 percent of the sample population, while those who drank more and died before age 54 comprised about 8 percent.

The research also held a forecast that did not look very rosy. It said that smokers aged 35-54 and who drank three or more bottles of vodka per week were 35 percent more likely to die in twenty years. Those who had reported consuming less than one bottle a week of vodka were 16 percent more likely to die in twenty years.

Alcohol has been a top killer in Russia for many years, and vodka seems to be the most popular poison, as it is widely available in the country, it is cheap, and is easily made at home. Drinking has been so ingrained in Russian culture that about 40 percent of Russian men die due to over-drinking. There have even been cases in which men drink alcohol that is not meant to be ingested, such as those found in colognes and anstiseptics. In Russia, a drinking binge that lasts several days is called 'zapoi.'

"Russian death rates have fluctuated wildly over the last 30 years," said study co-author Prof Sir Richard Peto, from the University of Oxford, "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."

In 1985, Mikhail Gorbachev had instituted some restrictions on alcohol, which caused alcohol consumption to decrease by 25 percent. This caused a subsequent decrease in death rates. However, the fall of communism seems to have reversed these effects, and both alcohol consumption and death rates have increased after that time.

In 2006, policy reforms on alcohol were introduced, and they caused consumption to fall by a third.

"The significant decline in Russian mortality rates following the introduction of moderate alcohol controls in 2006 demonstrates the reversibility of the health crisis from hazardous drinking," said study leader Professor David Zaridze from the Russian Cancer Research Centre in Moscow. "People who drink spirits in hazardous ways greatly reduce their risk of premature death as soon as they stop.

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