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Substance Misuse

Recreational drug use is far more common in society today than it was even ten years ago. The term drug misuse also encompasses improper use of prescription and over the counter medicines as well as illegal drugs. Drugs can have a negative effect on an employee’s ability to carry out a job effectively.

  • Around one-third (34.6%) of adults aged 16 to 59 had taken drugs at some point during their lifetime.
  • Around 1 in 29 (3.5%) of adults aged 16 to 59 had taken a Class A drug in the last year.
  • Around 1 in 5 (19.8%) adults aged 16 to 24 had taken a drug in the last year. This proportion was more than double that of the wider age group, and equates to around 1.2 million people.

Ref: Home Office Drug Misuse: 2017/18 Crime Survey for England and Wales

Substance Misuse in the Workplace

The Health and Safety Executive states that employers have a legal duty to protect employees' health, safety and welfare. Understanding the signs of drug and alcohol misuse (or abuse) will help you to manage health and safety risk in your workplace, develop a policy to deal with drug and alcohol-related problems and support your employees.

Reviewing your approach to managing substance misuse at work can help provide a range of benefits, to employers and individuals, including:

  • Saving on the cost of recruiting and training new employees to replace those whose employment might be terminated because of untreated drug misuse;
  • Reducing the cost of absenteeism or impaired productivity;
  • Creating a more productive environment by offering support to those employees who declare a drug-related problem, improving employee morale;
  • Reducing the risk of accidents caused by impaired judgement;
  • Enhancing the public perception of your organisation as a responsible employer;
  • Contributing to society’s efforts to combat drug misuse.
Good Practice for Managing Substance Misuse in the Workplace
  1. Write a Substance Misuse policy – this is your starting point. By developing or reviewing your Substance Misuse policy you can provide clear responsibilities and guidelines for everyone to follow, and clarifying what is appropriate behaviour and what is not. This should be developed in consultation with employees, any Union Representatives, and Human Resources. 
  2. Arrange some training for employees and managers – how well do you staff know your policy? What is a legal high? What are the signs? These are just some of the questions that can be asked around Substance Misuse. Run a substance misuse awareness session with staff using HSE Drug Misuse at Work Guide.
  3. Identify Health Champions – it’s good to have non-managerial champion to offer an alternative route to information and support for employees.
  4. Identify clear avenues of support – An organisation should have clear signposting to internal support available, and/or external support services helping individuals with issues associated with substance misuse problems.
  5. Raise awareness – Hold your own campaign/awareness session on the dangers of substance misuse and how it affects employees’ well-being.
Find a Service
  • Barod works across South and West Wales to support individuals affected by alcohol and drugs, and their friends and family
  • Kaleidoscope services support people and families affected by substance use
  • WCADA is a treatment agency based in Western Bay providing services for adults, young people and families, and people in the criminal justice system
Guidance and Further Information