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Substance Use and Abuse and its Implications in a Malawian Context – Pilot Project 1.


This pilot project on ‘Substance Use and Abuse in Malawi’ is the result of a research collaboration between SINTEF Health Research, Norway and the Centre for Social Research, University of Malawi. The study was commissioned by FORUT, Campaign for Development and Solidarity, Norway and NGO Gender Coordination Network, Malawi.         The objective of this project is to explore the use and abuse of substances in one selected urban and one rural location in Malawi. A limited anthropological fieldwork was conducted with the aim of talking to relevant people and visiting relevant places and sites. The specific methods used in the study were individual interviews, unstructured conversations and observation.           There is no systematic, nationally representative data collection on substance use and abuse in Malawi. Previous research has focused primarily on the use of chamba (cannabis/ marijuana), but alcohol and tobacco have also been mentioned as substances used in Malawi. The results from this pilot project show that there are two main substances of use and abuse in the study sites, namely alcohol and chamba. The results indicate that alcohol constitutes a bigger and more widespread problem than chamba. The substances used seem to be closely linked to the income of the user, but there is no clear connection between poverty and using substances. No matter how poor people are, they use substances, but the type of substances they choose depends on the money they have available at the time. Substances are used more often by men than women, and the reasons for using substances include increased sexual desire, gains in strength and intelligence, peace of mind, escape from problems, getting a clearer head, getting courage, etc.  This study calls for more research into the extent to which substances are used, where and by whom (who/which groups are vulnerable to the use and abuse of substances in Malawi), as well as studies looking at the relationship between substance use






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