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November 6, 1987

Soviets Attack Alcohol Problem Anew, This Time Armed With 'Perestroika'

JAMA. 1987;258(17):2341-2348. doi:10.1001/jama.1987.03400170019003

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IN MAY 1985, barely two months after entering office, General Secretary of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics Mikhail Gorbachev signed into law the resolution "On Measures to Overcome Drunkenness and Alcoholism." Shortly thereafter, the Council of Ministers created a new government agency, the All-Union Voluntary Temperance Promotion Society. As some of the first acts of his administration, those measures have become a major symbol of Gorbachev's revolutionary reforms designed to restructure Soviet society, Soviet specialists say.

James West, MD, a general surgeon who helped perform the world's first organ transplant, is standing on the platform at the gleaming white train station in Simferopol, the largest city in the Crimea. Together with four compatriots, West, the personal emissary of former First Lady Betty Ford, is being met by an official delegation. (West, 73, is now medical director of the Betty Ford Center, Rancho Mirage, Calif.)

It is 6:30 in the