Editor’s Note: The “Addiction Lives” interview project, a print and online collaboration between the Society for the Study of Addiction and the journal Addiction, returns to Points. You can find out more about the latest episode and listen to a short audio clip here.
This series explores the views and personal experiences of people who have contributed to the evolution of ideas in the Addiction journal’s field of interest.
In this interview Professor Jacek Moskalewicz talks about his time working in alcohol and policy settings from the 1970s onward in Poland and internationally. He discusses the impact of Poland’s political history, in particular the role of Solidarity, on alcohol and drug use and policy. He also talks about his experiences working as a consultant for the World Health Organisation and in developing international collaborations over the past 50 years.
The series is edited by Professor Virginia Berridge and this interview was conducted by Professor Berridge and Professor Betsy Thom.
For accessibility, text transcripts of the audio clips are provided below:
“One of my colleagues from the university told me there was a vacancy in the Institute of Psychiatry and Neurology that time known as the Psychneurological Institute, in the Department of Studies on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. So I decided to go and have a kind of vacation from real sociological research, spend two years and I hoped to come back to real sociology. But the time passed and I was more and more involved in alcohol and drug studies”
“I found that alcohol research, even though less prestigious, was even more interesting and it was thanks to the involvement of my Institute in the International Study of Alcohol Control Experiences (ISACE) It was a study sponsored by the World Health Organisation Office for Europe and namely by Jens Hannibal who was then regional advisor… it was the beginning, it was the late 1970s”
“In the summer of 1980 the Solidarity movement appeared in Poland, and the alcohol issue became an important part of their legacy. They claimed that the Communist government pushed alcohol on the working class, to maximise profits and to make it easier to manipulate a drunken society. So demands to reduce alcohol availability, to change alcohol policy were on the banners of Solidarity from the very beginning of its existence”
“I was a member of the expert team of Solidarity, parallel to being a member of the expert team of the governmental commission. So it was not schizophrenic, we were able to harmonise different perspectives and I enjoyed to travel on both horses in a way. And at that time I also realised that in addition to curiosity, alcohol research and also sociology in general, may affect real lives and may save lives. During the Solidarity period and the year after when martial law was imposed, alcohol consumption declined by 25%.”
“Then rationing of alcohol was introduced and this was a major factor in the decline in consumption. But this rationing and short supply of alcohol was approved of by both the government, but also by society, which supported Solidarity. So Solidarity demanded rationing, then people accepted, not everyone, of course we had alcohol, but it was a real decline in consumption, as reflected by the decline in morbidity and mortality associated with alcohol use”
“The Epidemiology Section of International Council of Alcohol Addictions evolved … The people of my generation at that time who were relatively young, felt they had a different identity than the old people coming to ICAA conferences. As you know ICAA conferences were participated in by people in elegant jackets, clapping and applauding and having a good dinner, that took much more attention than real discussion.”
“It was decided that every second year our Epidemiology Section would have separate meetings from the main seminars of ICAA. The first such meeting took place in Finland hosted by Alko (Finnish Alcohol Monopoly), Klaus Mäkelä was the main person and we had a five day meeting, which was a really small beautiful meeting, attended by no more than 25/30 people and we had no parallel sessions… and it was really, really something. I remember it was June 82 when, international telephones lines were still cut off in Poland”