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Dec 27, 2020
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On a drunken body: are sobering-up centers needed today?

“Shelter for the intoxicated”

The first sobering-up station in the Russian Empire appeared in 1902 in Tula, the homeland of the famous gingerbread and arms factory. “Shelter for the drunk” was created by the doctor Fyodor Arkhangelsky with the best intentions: to save drunk workers from freezing on the street. The regular coachman patrolled the streets and collected the drunks, and the paramedic provided medical assistance if necessary, which most often consisted of a glass of brine. The patients spent several days in the Tula sobering-up center, they were fed free of charge, and the poor and poorly dressed were provided with clothes and shoes. For the entertainment of the guests, there was even a “gramophone game”. In the very first year of the orphanage’s operation, “drunken” mortality – from hypothermia and in fights – decreased 1.7 times. Soon the experience of Fyodor Arkhangelsky began to be adopted in other parts of Russia, and a few years later similar institutions were organized in all provincial cities. After the October Revolution of 1917, all the drunken shelters were abolished.

“Andrew, am I a drunkard?”

The first Soviet sobering-up station opened in Leningrad in 1931 and was under the authority of the People’s Commissariat of Health. Nine years later, the chief security officer of the USSR, Lavrenty Beria, transferred the management of the sobering-up centers to the internal affairs bodies. In fact, the police officers performed the functions of a coachman in the Tula “Shelter for the drunk” – they picked up drunk people on the street and took them to the sobering-up center, where the doctors revived them and left them to sleep.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Soviet sobering-up centers also performed social functions: a special notification was sent to the place of work of overslept patients “to take administrative action.” Such a certificate was the reason for the deprivation of the prize and the position or simply “public censure” from colleagues. Sobering-up stations have become part of Soviet folklore and have become a topic for anecdotes, cartoons, and satirical articles. In Soviet films such as Autumn Marathon and Afonya, sobering-up centers and their patients were portrayed with comical connotations (“Andrei, am I an alcoholic?”).

New Russia: the decline of the sobering-up era

Since the mid-90s, a massive reduction in sobering-up centers began in Russia. At the same time, the issue of transferring these institutions to the Ministry of Health was widely discussed, but this did not happen. In 2011, all sobering-up centers in the country were closed, and their functions were transferred to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and medical institutions. No one has investigated the consequences of the abolition of this social institution, but at the regional level there have been numerous reports of the growth of “drunken crime”.

State Duma deputy Alexander Khinshtein, who initiated the bill on the revival of the sobering-up system in Russia, cites data from the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The number of crimes committed while intoxicated increased by 35% from 2011 to 2018. The number of attacks on drunken Russians and the number of deaths from hypothermia also increased – 8-10 thousand citizens die in Russia every year, who freeze to death in a state of alcoholic intoxication.

Drunk – pay

According to the idea of ​​Khinshtein and his colleagues, the new system of sobering-up stations will not become part of the system of the Ministry of Internal Affairs or the Ministry of Health, as it was in the Soviet years. They will be created on the basis of a public-private partnership, and the people who fall into them will have to pay. It is assumed that the cost of such services will not exceed 2 thousand rubles.

The chief narcologist of the Ural Federal District Anton Poddubny considers this idea quite promising, provided that these institutions will perform social functions, not medical ones.

“The main task of the sobering-up center is to save the life of a drunk person. That he would not freeze on the street, so that he would not be beaten and robbed. If he needs medical help, call her. In Chelyabinsk, a similar institution was created in the structure of the city administration of social protection: a person is brought in, an administrative protocol is drawn up, they are allowed to sleep under the supervision of a medical worker, ”the expert told MedPortal.

According to Poddubny, such sobering-up stations could greatly facilitate the life of employees and patients of the emergency room of hospitals, where alcoholics are usually taken for reasons “so as not to freeze.” In addition, such institutions should have reliable security, since a drunk person is a danger to himself and to those around him.

“The main thing is that this good initiative should lead to the creation of a serious social institution, and not another system for pumping money out of the population,” said Anton Poddubny.

Illustration: MedPortal

Uber for red noses “

Director of the Institute of Narcological Health of the Nation, doctor-narcologist Oleg Zykov considers the idea of ​​reviving sobering-up centers in Russia “deja vu and Sovietism”. It is very dangerous to idealize the Soviet experience, which showed that mixing law enforcement and medical functions leads to violence against people in a helpless state, the doctor said.

“Let’s not forget that the main reason why sobering-up centers were eventually closed is the massive violence in such institutions. People there were robbed, killed and maimed. I personally participated in the investigation of the situation in Arzamas, where women were regularly raped in a sobering-up center. It was very difficult to prove it, because the city is small, everyone knows and covers each other, “- said Oleg Zykov on the air of Radio Russia. He also recalled the high-profile murder of a journalist in a Tomsk sobering-up center, after which the institution was closed.

According to the doctor, under current conditions, a drunk person in a confined space is subject to additional danger. Instead, it is better to create a special service for moving such citizens around the place of residence – an Uber for drunkards. A similar system operates, for example, in Canada, where the public organization “Red Nose” takes people home, and then invoices for services.

“In the event that a drunk person needs urgent medical care, the Ministry of Health’s nomenclature has such a service as an emergency narcology department. In some cities, for example in Tomsk, when the last sobering-up station was closed, the authorities stepped up the work of this service, “Zykov said.

Now, when people have smartphones and technologies allow them to easily “break through” a person’s place of residence, the system for evacuating drunkards at the place of residence would be the most humane and effective, the doctor is sure.

“If the whole pathos of this venture is to save the life of a drunk person, then it is enough just to take him home. And what kind of frying pan his wife will meet is another conversation, ”concluded Oleg Zykov.


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