Case Study on Drug Addiction
According to a recent report by the Royal College of Physicians (“Alcohol – can the NHS afford it?”), alcohol abuse is a growing concern in the UK, with more than one third of men and one fifth of women regularly consuming more alcohol than the recommended limits. The Scotsman recently reported that deaths related to alcohol consumption in Scotland have trebled in the last 20 years, and that alcohol-related health problems cost the Scottish NHS £100 million per year (Scotsman, 29/09/03). Drug misuse is also on the increase, with a Chamber of Commerce report claiming that illicit drug taking has increased by 30 percent in the last seven years. The Observer claims that ecstasy use has doubled to 2.2 percent of the population in the last five years, a higher proportion than in any other country apart from Australia and Ireland (Observer, 28/09/03).
The sheer scale of alcohol and drug abuse in the UK has obvious consequences for the workplace, especially when it is estimated that up to 75 percent of those with alcohol problems are currently in employment (Forum Issue 29). According to an article in People Management in May 2000, up to 14 million working days a year are lost across Britain due to alcohol-related absence. Ninety per cent of personnel directors from top UK organisations surveyed in 1994 (1995 HEA) stated that alcohol consumption was a problem for their organisation. A more recent study, (Drink, Drugs and Work) published in August 2000 reported that 60 percent of employers complained about employee problems due to alcohol misuse, and 27 percent about problems due to drug misuse.
Despite this, a CIPD study of organizations in the UK published in 2001 shows that around 40 percent of respondents had no formal policy on alcohol or drugs.
This report will identify some of the operational and strategic issues raised by alcohol and drug misuse in the workplace. It will then go on to explore the resources available to organizations looking to develop an alcohol and/or drugs policy and the possible problems associated with policy development. Theories on workplace health and surveys of organizational reality will underpin the evaluative side of the report.
In the CIPD report “Alcohol and drug policies in UK organizations” (2001), companies cited a variety of operational issues that resulted in the introduction of an alcohol and/or drug policy. Employee absence was foremost amongst these, with 55 percent of respondents naming this as a reason for policy development. Up to 14 million working days are lost each year as a result of alcohol-related illness (People Management, May 2000). Loup (1994) states that drug and alcohol abusers are absent from work two to eight times more often that the average employee. The direct and indirect costs of employee absence are manifold and can include sick pay, overtime for colleagues covering the absence, the cost of hiring and training temporary or replacement staff and the time taken doing this, the demotivation and frustration of remaining staff, and possible further absence as a result. Labour turnover can also be affected, as drug and alcohol users tend to change jobs more frequently than average (Loup).
Disciplinary action as a result of alcohol or drug related incidents, and deterioration in individual performance also figured prominently in the CIPD report as reasons for developing policy, being invoked by 46 and 40 percent of companies respectively. Other responses included damage to customer/client relations (and presumably also damage to the company’s reputation and possible loss of business), decreasing productivity and rising accident levels. Butler (1994) suggests that an employee dependent on drugs may be up to 25 percent less productive than an average employee. Loup agrees with this and also highlights the likelihood of inferior product quality. Furthermore Loup states that the accident rate for drug abusers is about four times that of an average worker, and that up to 40 percent of workplace deaths can be related to drug abuse. The legal implications of accidents caused by workers who are under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs will be discussed later. Read more…