As drugs become a common place feature of many people's social lives – particularly in the 16-29 age group – they are leaking into the work place. A large amount of employers are finding employees have problems with drugs at work. It is a serious and growing problem. People who take drugs at work can complete our application form to get help at our drug rehab. A Teen Challenge London Support Worker or the Centre Manager will contact you to arrange an interview. Our services are provided at a very low cost. You can call us on 020 8553 3338 if you have any questions.
The report Drink, Drugs at Work Don't Mix, by Alcohol Concern and the Institute for the Study of Drug Dependence (now called DrugScope) pulls together the statistics and information. The report finds that most people who have a drinking problem are in work, as are 25% of those seeking help for problems with other drugs.
In a survey, 46% of large companies said that alcohol at work was a problem, while 18% reported illegal drug use by their employees in the previous year.
Although problem drinkers and drug users may stay in the workforce, there is evidence that they perform less well, change jobs more frequently, and take more time off sick than other workers – all of which costs employers heavily. One government study estimated that around 14.8 million working days are lost each year as a result of drugs and drink – that's 3-5% of all absence.
In some jobs, particularly where safety is involved, such as the transport industry, any form of intoxication is a very serious matter and may be a criminal offence. But even if safety isn't in question, drinking heavily or taking drugs while at work is not generally a good way to impress the boss. Most of the sought-after effects of alcohol and illegal drugs cause changes in behavior that are inappropriate at work. Feeling intensely relaxed (cannabis) or euphoric (heroin, ecstasy) is not conducive to the meeting of deadlines, for example. Displaying uninhibited, very sociable behavior (a consequence of many drugs, notably ecstasy and alcohol – though alcohol can also make people aggressive) – is likely to alienate or alarm colleagues who are fuelled only by caffeine. Unpredictable and clearly undesirable side-effects – for example, passing out at your desk or suffering a panic attack – are also a possibility.
Someone who drinks at lunchtime to help them cope with a stressful afternoon meeting may find that the alcohol escalates their anxiety. It will certainly impair judgment and reflexes – increasing the possibility of their saying something stupid and bumping into the furniture. Cocaine and amphetamines may help a user work long hours, but they can also increase anxiety and affect the quality of work.
Despite this, alcohol and drugs are so embedded in the culture of some organizations that bosses tolerate or even encourage substance misuse. According to Drug Scope, high-earning white-collar workers are most at risk from this sort of employer collusion: in a few companies, 'If you have to stay up till 4am to get the job done, and cocaine helps you to do that, then the employer turns a blind eye.'
Different drugs involve different after-effects and recovery periods but getting over a heavy session can take days, during which time you may feel tired, agitated, anxious or depressed. Sleeping problems are also common. In the long term, users may experience difficulties in their relationships and will be more vulnerable to medical problems. These problems also affect productivity at work.
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With the encouragement of government, employers in a wide range of industries are therefore taking an interest in the drug-taking habits of their employees. This interest can express itself in almost pastoral terms – an offer of confidential help for anyone who might need it. But at the other end of the scale there are employers who act like private investigators, determined to catch and punish drug users.
Their reasoning is simple: if it affects their business, it is their business. Broadly speaking, if drugs or alcohol are impairing your ability to work safely and productively, your employer has a right to intervene, even if you indulge the habit outside working hours.
According to a national survey of 1,800 firms by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development:
But overzealous employers who insist employees submit to tests for no good reason could find themselves liable to prosecution. A positive drug test gives the employers very little information: All it shows is that at some point the person came into contact with a particular type of drug.
Unless justified on safety grounds, alcohol and drug testing should only be introduced as part of a voluntary treatment programme, says the code. And positive results for cannabis 'should neither be recorded nor used'. This would be good news for people who smoke an occasional joint – cannabis can stay in the system for days or weeks.
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Turning up for work under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or taking drugs while on work premises, are sackable offences. 'You are supposed to present yourself fit for work – it would be difficult to defend someone in these circumstances.
Turning up with a hangover is a grey area. You are probably going to be late and you are not going to be very effective when you are in. The axe however is unlikely to fall for a first (or very infrequent) offence: 'What would be most suitable would be for an organization to give the employee a warning and a chance to improve. Most employers won't care if you do it once a year. It's just when it affects your productivity.'
Teen Challenge provides a wealth of information and support for drug or drinking addicts. Our rehabilitation programme includes expert advice for any type of substance abuse. We are open to everyone both men and women who need addiction help. The centre in London is open to men only and Hope House in Wales is for women only. For more information you will need to complete an application form.