Preventing Alcohol and Other Drug Problems in the Workplace

Richard Midford, Fredrik Velander, Steve Allsop

Research output: Book chapter/Published conference paperChapter


Alcohol is the most commonly used drug in industrialised societies and is likely to cause the most problems in the workplace. Apart from cannabis, illicit drug use is very low and poses much less of a problem in the workplace. Occupational groups often influence alcohol and other drug (AOD) use. Men most at risk work in male-dominated blue-collar occupational groups and in the hospitality industry. Women, at greatest risk, work in competitive occupations. There are a number of individual and environmental predictors of problematic alcohol use. The highest risk category of employee s a young male with low self-esteem and an arrest history, who has family and friends with AOD problems. A stressful work environment, poor supervision and easy availability also contribute to problematic use. Alcohol has been implicated in transportation crashes, but the evidence for involvement in other workplace accidents is less clear. The main productivity loss due to AOD use is absenteeism, although job performance also suffers. The cost of AOD use to business is consistently high, which suggests that effective interventions will produce substantial cost benefitInterventions to reduce the risk posed by AOD use fall into the following five broad categories:' Policy development, which provides the basis for further interventions.' Information and education programmes, which explain why AOD use can be a problem in the workplace.' Health promotion programmes, which change health environments and teach participants how to improve their health, including unhealthy AOD use. ' Regulation of use and compliance drug testing, which bans specific AOD use and measures exposure to the banned drugs by chemical analysis, thus providing objective evidence of transgression. ' Assistance and treatment, which commonly involves referring employees with an identified AOD problem to an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP).The less structured and more demanding working life of the twenty-first century is putting greater stress on workers and this is likely to have ramifications for AOD use and related work problems. Optimum outcomes are likely to be obtained by tailoring responses to the workplace, where location, size, history, culture, workforce and type of the work are all factors that need to be considered. Performance management, with well-articulated occupational health and safety objectives, is likely to provide the best basis for an effective workplace AOD program.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPreventing Harmful Substance Use
Subtitle of host publicationThe Evidence Base for Policy and Practice
EditorsW Loxley W Loxley
Place of PublicationChichester, UK
PublisherJohn Wiley & Sons
Number of pages15
ISBN (Print)9780470092279
Publication statusPublished - 2005


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