Carl Peter Thunberg, a Swedish medical doctor and botanist who visited Japan in 1775 as a medical doctor attached to the Dutch Trade House in Dejima, Nagasaki, taught the treatment of syphilis using mercury water to Japanese doctors and interpreters. This therapy is based on the oral administration of a 0.014% solution of mercuric chloride and was published in 1754 by Gerard van Swieten in Vienna, who questioned the utility of the conventional salivation therapy. The dose was set taking safety into account. Kogyu Yoshio, a Japanese-Dutch interpreter, had already read about it in a book written by J. J. Plenck, when he was taught about the therapy by Thunberg. He recorded Thunberg's teachings in his book "Komohijiki", presenting details of various formulations, including a high-dose formulation. The mercury therapy was subsequently spread across the country by medical doctors who learned Western medicine through the Dutch. In the 1820's, Genshin Udagawa, who read a number of Western medical books, published books on Western drugs. In these books, G. Udagawa included precise information on "Swieten Yakushu-hu (medicated alcohol)", including information on the dosage, formulation, mode of usage, and precautions for use. The maximum dose of mercuric chloride established chloride established by van Swieten was included in the Japanese Pharmacopoeia up to its 5th edition.
Previous research suggests that a strong relation exists between alcohol consumption and suicide in Soviet and post-Soviet Russia. This study extends this analysis across a much longer historical time frame by examining the relationship between heavy drinking and suicide in tsarist and post-World War II Russia.
Using alcohol poisoning mortality data as a proxy for heavy drinking, time-series analytical modeling techniques were used to examine the strength of the alcohol-suicide relation in the provinces of European Russia in the period 1870-1894 and for Russia in 1956-2005.
During 1870-1894, a decreasing trend was recorded in heavy drinking in Russia that contrasted with the sharp increase observed in this phenomenon in the post-World War II period. A rising trend in suicide was recorded in both study periods, although the increase was much greater in the latter period. The strength of the heavy drinking-suicide relation nevertheless remained unchanged across time, with a 10% increase in heavy drinking resulting in a 3.5% increase in suicide in tsarist Russia and a 3.8% increase in post-World War II Russia.
Despite the innumerable societal changes that have occurred in Russia across the two study periods and the growth in the level of heavy drinking, the strength of the heavy drinking-suicide relation has remained unchanged across time. This suggests the continuation of a highly detrimental drinking culture where the heavy episodic drinking of distilled spirits (vodka) is an essential element in the alcohol-suicide association.
Linnaeus' (1707- 1778) anecdotes in Nemesis Divina and stories from the Lundby Study were taken as a starting point for this essay an about the fate of heavy ("gluttonous") drinkers. The narratives are real enough, even if their meanings are interpreted as highly metaphorical. It is argued that through Linnaeus thinking on diet, alcohol, excessive appetites and God's revenge, today's secular awareness of risk behavior and unhealthy life styles may be expanded. Hence, new insights can grow from different perspectives on complicated problems.
To examine major changes in the supply of alcohol in Russia and its impact on health in late-tsarist and early-Soviet society.
Statistical data on acute forms of alcohol mortality were drawn from official publications and medical literature published in the period 1860-1930 that covered the 50 provinces of European Russia and some of the major cities in the Russian Empire. These data were examined for across-time changes in alcohol mortality in relation to changes in the availability of alcohol products, both in terms of increased and decreased levels of supply.
Rapid changes in the supply of alcoholic products in earlier periods of Russian history resulted in quick and marked changes in the levels of acute alcohol mortality. However, while restrictions on the availability of spirits have sometimes been effective in reducing alcohol mortality, there has often been a rapid recourse to alternative forms of alcohol, i.e. alcohol surrogates.
The lesson of history suggests that any attempt to deal with the problem of hazardous drinking in Russia must deal with all sources of alcohol, both legal and illegal, as individuals have demonstrated a high degree of ingenuity in identifying alternative sources of alcohol, both in the past and the present.
The Russian landscape painter Alexey Savrasov lived in the middle of the 19th century. He was overwhelmed with grief at the loss of several of his children and he used alcohol to blunt the pain and anguish. The effects of psychoactive substances and especially alcohol have been linked closely to creativity. His life story demonstrates the bitter relationship between the bottle and the muse. He became dependent on alcohol, his family broke up and he was fired from work, his creativity declined and his health deteriorated. At death, he was a lonely and a forgotten man and only two persons attended his funeral.