Alcoholism just got its first real challenge - St. John of God (SJOG)
in Mzuzu has established the first ever addiction recovery centre in
Malawi a move that is going to bring hope to families that have
members hooked on the bottle or drugs.
Charles Masulani Mwale, Program Manager at SJOG said in an email
interview that the institution has been motivated by the lack of such
services in Malawi despite addiction being a social problem in Malawi.
“Looking at our clientele, we realise that there a huge proportion of
mental health problems co-occur with substance abuse or that the
problems are secondary to substance abuse. Since our approach to care
is holistic, we felt we could provide a service to meet this need,”
The concept of addiction rehabilitation is popular in developed
nations where people have to be bailed from addictions ranging from
playing video games to dependency on drugs such as heroin. The
interventions range from sophisticated centres to groups of addicts
helping each other out.
Mwale said despite there being no concrete studies on the extent of
the drug and substance abuse problem in Malawi, the fact that other
African countries have the problem shows that Malawi has not been
He said statistics from other African countries show that the
prevalence of alcohol misuse is about 5 to 30 percent depending on
social factors such as economic status. In most Southern African
colleges, said Mwale, 11 percent of the students use hemp, while the
drug Mandrax is also popular.
“In one local study it was found out that 57 percent of youths aged 12
to 17 agree that obtaining marijuana is easy in Malawi because of its
“…what’s more scaring is that casual as well as chronic substance
users are more likely to engage in high-risk behaviours such as
unprotected sex. The drugs or alcohol interfere with their judgment,”
Well, Malawi will have to stagger no longer, at a fee of K15,000 the
committed addicted first undergo screening at the centre’s psychology
centre to determine the addiction levels and type of therapy required.
Some hard-core alcohol users have to report early so that their levels
can undergo detoxification before starting the actual therapy.
“We have boarding facilities; we provide lunch as well as foodstuffs
for dinner and breakfast. The program is residential and individuals
are not allowed to go out unnecessarily to prevent relapse while on
Mwale assures Malawians wishing to come to the centre saying they will
be housed separate from the acute mentally ill patients that the
institution also deals with.
The program is going to be facilitated by nurses, counsellors, Art
professionals, psychologists, pastoral care staff and occupational
therapists all standing by to kick the addiction out of the patients.
SJOG was established in 1993 by Brothers of St. John of God from
Ireland who were invited by Mzuzu Diocese to establish a community
based mental health care service centre to service the North. It was
initially working with the church’s Primary Health Care Department but
has now grown into a formidable multi-faceted institution that can now
produce graduates in mental health.
SJOG joins the likes Drug Fight Malawi an NGO which is also furiously
fighting alcohol abuse in Malawi and is bent on seeing the enactment
of the National Alcohol Policy.