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4 Jan, 2010 02:32

Sobering stations on alert during holiday season

As alcohol consumption increases during the holiday season, Russia is boosting its efforts to make sure that those who are intoxicated are neither a danger to themselves nor others.

Twenty four hours-a-day, seven days a week, special police teams scour the streets of Russia’s cities for dangerously intoxicated people. The people who are taken from the streets are then brought to sobering stations.

Upon arrival, they are checked over by a medical assistant to establish their level of intoxication. Then, they are stripped down, forcibly if they resist, and put into one of the holding rooms. There, they have a chance to sleep off the alcohol in safety until they are on their feet again.

They can be held for anything between 3 to 24 hours,” says Svetlana Medvedeva, a medical assistant at one of the stations. “Really serious cases are referred to a hospital immediately.”

According to Russia’s Federal Service for Alcohol Market Regulation, more than 23,000 people die every year of alcohol poisoning and 75,000 deaths are attributed to ‘excessive drinking.’ Thus, sobering stations – a unique concept pioneered by Russia – provide a service that is essential.

Our sobering center helps people who have underestimated their condition when drinking outside or in public places,” says Elena Krakova, head of a sobering station in the Khimki District of Moscow region. “People get help here. We prevent them from committing crimes if they are drunk and aggressive and we protect them from crimes against themselves.”

Incidentally, a play depicting sobering stations and highlighting how much of a problem excessive alcohol consumption is was recently staged in Moscow.

The story was written back in 1973 or 74. As a director of this play, I looked at the issue from a slightly different angle,” said Vasily Mischenko, director of ‘In the morning they’ve woken up.’ “I wanted to consider it from today’s viewpoint. The problem that had existed 30 or 60 years ago is still extremely topical.”

In addition to sobering stations, tough new measures are being brought in by the government to combat high levels of alcohol abuse. Recently, a new minimum legal price for vodka was introduced to discourage heavy drinking.

However, services such as sobering stations remain a vital resource, ensuring that the people who are brought there can escape a fate that could have been much worse than the hangover they wake up with.