The composition of surrogate and illegal alcohol products in Estonia

Katrin Lang, Marika Väli, Sándor Szucs, Róza Ádány, Martin McKee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

44 Citations (Scopus)


Aim: To identify the composition of illegal and surrogate alcohol products consumed in Estonia. Methods: The initial source of information was a series of visits made in August 2005 to a soup kitchen in central Tartu, Estonia. Individuals were asked for brief details of their personal circumstances, what they normally drank, and in addition they were asked to bring samples of the substances they usually consumed. In other cases, the substances identified were purchased by the investigators or from informal contacts in north-eastern part of Estonia, an area that is well known for illegal alcohol consumption. Samples were tested for chemical contents. Results: We identified a range of alcohol-containing substances that are consumed, although, not intended for consumption. These comprised medicinal products, aftershaves, illegally produced spirits, and fire-lighting fuel. The medicinal compounds contained, on average, 67% ethanol by volume; the aftershaves contained slightly less. Both were typically pure, with a few containing detectable quantities of isoamyl alcohol. The illegally produced alcohol contained, on average, 43% ethanol by volume, ranging from 32 to 53%. However, many also contained detectable quantities of long chain alcohols. These substances are half the price or less of commercial vodka, with fire lighting fuels especially inexpensive. Conclusions: There is in Estonia a range of alcohol-containing substances easily available at low cost. Some contain substantially higher concentrations of ethanol than commercial spirits and others also contain toxic long chain alcohols.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)446-450
Number of pages5
JournalAlcohol and Alcoholism
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 1 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Toxicology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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