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INTRODUCTION: Substance use in Zambia is stigmatized and treatment access is limited. Over 30,000 people are homeless in Lusaka, where one-quarter of homeless youth report use. Zambia's Ministry of Health recently developed policies targeting alcohol, suggesting Chainama, the only mental health hospital, offer treatment. Together, they endorsed training in the curriculum studied in this paper. We hypothesized training Zambian professionals would improve their perceptions of substance users and treatment. We then explored if treatment using the curriculum, as delivered to clients by training participants, would encourage client motivation to change, participation in groups, and reduce substance use frequency. METHODS: Part 1: One-hundred professionals were trained in a curriculum-based, literacy-free intervention employing cognitive behavioral and rational emotive behavior therapy techniques to explore 12 Steps of addiction recovery through Zambian art forms. Pre/post questionnaires captured perspectives around substance users and treatment. Part 2: Trained organizations delivered the curriculum in their communities. Twenty-five organizations rated feasibility and benefit of the curriculum. Data for 200 clients recorded pre/post motivation to change, open-sharing/participation, and frequency of substance use. RESULTS: While training significantly modified professionals' perspectives regarding the value of offering treatment, their views of substance users did not change. Clients endorsed increases in "motivation to change" and "participation/open-sharing." Frequency of alcohol, marijuana, inhalant, and cigarette use significantly decreased. CONCLUSION: Training in the curriculum helped address a public health need, playing a role in increased motivational variables and decreased substance use. Research addressing this study's limitations is encouraged. VIDEO ABSTRACT: For a video summary of this paper, please visit

Original publication




Journal article


Addict Behav Rep

Publication Date





Addiction treatment, Africa, CBT, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Expressive arts, Literacy-free, REBT, Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, SUD, Substance Use Disorder, Street children, Substance use