Dealing with drugs and alcohol problems

31 August 2004
Dealing with drugs and alcohol problems

Think you don't have to worry about drink and drug problems in your workplace? Then you might be surprised by these facts and statistics from the British Medical Association:

  • In the UK up to 14 million working days are lost each year from alcohol-related problems.

  • Alcohol-related absence costs businesses £3.3b every year.

  • Hangovers alone are estimated to cost businesses between £53m and £108m a year.

  • 46% of large companies report alcohol misuse as a problem at work.

  • 60% of workplace fatalities are alcohol-related.

  • Drug addiction has risen fourfold in the past 10 years.

  • 10% of those seeking help for drug abuse are in employment.

  • The cost to businesses of drug misuse is about £800m a year.

  • In 2003 18% of large companies reported illegal drug use among their employees.

How can you spot if a member of your staff has a drink or drugs problem?

  • Loss of concentration and forgetfulness

  • Absence from duties - frequent visits to toilet, long tea breaks, being late for work or not turning up at all.

  • Falling standards of performance - lack of attention to detail, making frequent mistakes.

  • Interpersonal problems - unpredictable reactions, mood swings, having a confrontational matter and an "I don't care" attitude.

  • Hyperactivity.

  • Lack of concern about their appearance. Alcohol-related appearance - flushed face, hand tremors, aroma of alcohol. Drug-related appearance - runny nose, dilated pupils, constricted pupils. Of course, these are also the symptoms of many common illnesses, so managers should take this into consideration.

How can you deal with the problem?

  • Have a specific policy in place to deal with drink or drug abuse.

  • Decide whether an incident amounts to misconduct or addiction.

  • Try to take a sympathetic approach to a problem. Employers should encourage employees with problems to seek professional help.

  • Use the disciplinary procedure as a reserve option and exercise it with caution.

  • Create an environment where problems can be discussed openly and without fear.

  • Make contact details of local counselling services available to the workforce.

Produced by Caterer-online in association with learnpurple.

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