Statistics shine light on drug and alcohol addiction in Samoa

Statistics from rehabilitation service provider the Salvation Army have shone a light on the prevalence drug and alcohol in Samoa. 

According to the Director of Salvation Army in Samoa, Lt. Colonel Rod Carey, their addiction service, which was established in August last year, currently has 320 clients on its book.

“Out of 320 clients there are 74 with an assault offence, and that makes up 23 per cent of the clients in total whereas a total number of 201 clients are referred for alcohol use which makes up 63 per cent of their total," he said. 

“The majority of referrals come from the Ministry of Justice and Courts Administration, but they would like to see more self-referrals where people seek help at an earlier stage before the problem becomes more serious.

“Our programme so far has been very successful and all clients graduate after six weeks of treatment with a certificate and a letter to say they have completed the programme.”

Lt. Colonel Carey added that a common issue faced by clients with alcohol addictions is a lack of education about alcohol's harmful effects and the link between intoxication and violence. 

“In terms of drug abuse a lot of clients claim it is either through peer pressure or it is because cannabis and alcohol are readily available and accessible," he said. 

Sailivao Aukusitino Senio, the Salvation Army's Addiction Service Team Leader, and the Goshen Trust co-hosted a workshop at Lotofaga last week focusing on addiction and mental health.

Sailivao delivered a presentation that outlined the effects of alcohol and drug use, and urged members of the community to seek help when they have concerns about a loved one or someone they know who is abusing alcohol or using drugs.

“Do not wait for the problem to get worse, seek help,” he said.

He said that in 2016, 82 per cent of criminal offending was alcohol and or drug related.

“Since the Addiction Service started in August 2018, the Salvation Army has seen over 300 people needing alcohol and or drug treatment and support," he said. 

Mental Health Unit Nurse, John Lokeni and Goshen Trust Chief executive officer, Naomi Eshraghi, spoke on the topic of mental health, identifying the challenges that people living with a mental illness face and how stigma and discrimination can further contribute to those challenges. 

“Sometimes families struggle with how to help their loved one but family support is very important, and Goshen Trust focuses on helping people to live well with mental illness and to contribute and be a productive member within their family’,” said Ms. Eshragi.

Mr. Lokeni advised that the mental unit provides assessment and treatment, which could include the person being admitted into hospital if needed. 

“Goshen Trust can then provide community respite before the person returns to their family and also alcohol and drugs can contribute to mental health problems’,” he said.

“A great outcome from the community workshop was that we have had some self-referrals on alcohol abuse.

Sailivao said that comments made by the people who were present indicated that alcohol, drugs and gambling is a big problem.

“One person stated their opinion that alcohol is a contributing factor towards family violence. Another talked about the cost of gambling and how it is a dilemma because bingo is often used as a church fundraising activity," he said. 

“It was also suggested that the cost of alcohol should be raised, which would help towards reducing the problems that alcohol causes.”

Last week's workshop was the first of four district community meeting’s that Salvation Army and Goshen Trust will be delivering over the coming months, with one being planned for Savai’i. 

Lt. Colonel Carey said the workshop had already produced self-referrals on alcohol and drug abuse. 

The school presented boxes of Maths books donated by Kelburn Primary School in Wellington to Matatufu, Vavau and Lotofaga Primary Schools as a token of appreciation. 

The Salvation Army provides a free, confidential service, delivering treatment and support for addiction issues, which includes gambling.

The Salvation Army is located on Salenesa Road, Moto’otua, and you are welcome to visit Monday to Friday from 8.30am to 4.30pm or call 8400666 if you need help and support with addiction issues. 

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