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Reducing the Impact of Drug and Alcohol Misuse in the Workplace

by | Feb 3, 2022 | Health and Wellbeing, News

Workplace drugs awareness training

Drug and Alcohol misuse can have significant consequences for workplaces.

If you’re a line manager, supervisor, team leader, HR representative, or anyone who oversees staff in the workplace, you may not realise what an essential role you can play in reducing substance abuse. Working closely with employees, you’re in the ideal position to be able to identify the signs and symptoms of alcohol and drug abuse, and help implement preventative strategies.

According to the Health and Safety Executive, “alcohol is a factor in up to 1 in 4 accidents in the workplace and responsible for 3-5% of work absences, totalling more than 11 million lost working days each year and over £6 billion lost in productivity”.

In addition to this, the CPD found that around a third of employers have disciplined someone in the past 2 years for substance misuse.

Just one person in a workplace who is affected by drugs and alcohol can increase risk for the entire team. Addressing this issue before it becomes a problem is key. Before we can fully explore how you can help, we need to consider why people misuse substances and what the workplace impact can be.

(When we refer to ‘drugs’ this includes caffeine and nicotine as well as legal and illegal medicines and alcohol as any drug can be harmful if misused).

Why do people take drugs?

Drugs and Alcohol

A person taking a drug may have many different reasons for using that drug, many of them legal and reasonable. However, any drug has the potential to be misused and therefore have negative implications for an employee’s work and their workplace.  Reasons people may take drugs include:

  • Medical Needs
  • Dependence
  • Self-Medication
  • Recreation
  • Pain Relief
  • Physical improvement
  • Stress Relief
  • Emotional support
  • Habit
  • Performance Enhancement
  • Mental Health
  • Peer Pressure
  • Habit

Drug misuse occurs when a drug is used in a way that can affect work performance, conduct or when using compromises the health and safety of oneself and others.

Why are drugs and alcohol an issue for the workplace?

Misusing drugs can have a big impact, on an individual’s health, on society and consequently on the workplace.

The side effects of drug and alcohol misuse are wide and varied. In the workplace they may affect a person’s perception and the way they think and feel which can impair concentration and judgement and put themselves and others at risk of accidents. Even drugs such as alcohol and painkillers can affect an individual’s ability to drive or operate machinery for some time after consumption.

Employee health and wellbeing is central to a business and when organisations fail to manage substance abuse properly, they may experience:

  • Reduced productivity levels
  • Increased illness in staff leading to higher levels of absence
  • A loss of morale in the organisation
  • Damage to the reputation of the company and its owners
  • Broken relationships between employees, managers, and customers
  • Accidents in the workplace
  • Legal costs

Physical and mental health in the workplace have become increasingly important for employers and employees and substance misuse can affect both. Increasing drug awareness in the workplace helps to reduce illness, accidents and injuries relating to substance misuse and increases health, wellness, and productivity.

An organisation that supports employees to make healthier choices is more likely to prosper, bringing greater benefits for all.

How can I help?

how-can-I-support-drug-misuse-in-workplace

Everyone has a responsibility to be aware of the risks of substance abuse and how to minimise the impact it can have. As employees spend so much of their lives at work, workplaces present great opportunities for early detection, intervention, and support.

In addition to upholding their key responsibilities under the law relating to drugs and alcohol, managers are at the forefront for prevention and it’s essential that they have the skills and knowledge to identify and manage problems as they arise. Taking a proactive approach benefits everyone.

In essence, if workplaces have the policies and procedures to handle drug and alcohol misuse properly, they can become settings that can promote the health of workers and influence the health of their families and community.

As a manager, it’s important that you educate yourself and receive the correct Drug and Alcohol Awareness Training to allow you to identify and tackle substance misuse issues as they arise.

You could also consider becoming involved in promoting and supporting employee wellbeing through using advisory services, notice boards, awareness days and health campaigns such as Dry January or Stoptober.

For additional information and resources, you could contact:

NHS Resources

Drinkaware

DrugWise

Samaritans

If you’re interested in Drug and Alcohol Awareness Training for Managers or Employees, have a look at our online courses, relaunched for 2022 with all the information you need to help you understand and identify the potential signs and risks of misuse, and offer support to address potential issues.

You may also like to consider other courses from our Health and Wellbeing Course Catalogue including our popular Mental Health Awareness Mental Health Awareness Online Course.

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