Drugs in the workplace and the community a grey area


If you own or manage a business and are concerned by the use of drugs in the workplace, it’s likely your concern is mostly levelled at the younger members of your workforce. However, as we’ve stressed in previous posts (see Workplace alcohol testing not just a younger employee issue and Shades of grey when conducting drug and alcohol testing for your Perth workplace), drugs in the workplace and, for that matter, drugs in the community are not just a younger person’s issue.

Now there’s more research – this time involving accidental drug overdose deaths – to support this argument.

The research comes from the Penington Institute and its new national report – Australia’s Annual Overdose Report 2016. The report compares drug deaths across the most recent decade of available data. The research shows that in 2014 almost 8 in 10 overdose deaths were in the 30 to 59 age bracket. Additionally, the data shows that men and those living in regional Australia are particularly at risk of drug death.

Another important aspect of the research is that it’s not just illicit drugs that are the issue. Increasingly, more people are dying due to accidental overdose of prescription drugs than illicit drugs (71% compared with 29%).

CEO of the Penington Institute John Ryan said: “These figures challenge the conventional wisdom that it is young urban people who are most at risk of dying of overdose in Australia.”

The report shows:

  • In 2014, people aged 30-59 accounted for 78 per cent of all overdose deaths.
  • Australians aged 40-49 are the most likely to die of a drug overdose. 342 people in this age bracket died of drug overdose in 2014, almost double the level of 174 deaths in 2004.
  • In 2014, per capita, death by overdose was higher in rural and regional areas than in metropolitan areas.
  • Men overdose in much higher numbers than women. In 2014, 762 men died of drug overdose compared with 375 women.
  • Alarmingly, deaths from accidental drug overdose are rising significantly. There were 1137 deaths in 2014 compared with 705 in 2004.

The report adds to the growing evidence that no matter what methodology of workplace drug testing you perform (random, pre-employment, causing testing or incident testing), the drug testing must involve older employees as well as younger employees. It also highlights the need for a robust drug and alcohol management plan and education of your employees.

See the Penington Institute website for more information on Australia’s Annual Overdose Report 2016.
Drugs in the workplace, and for the matter in the community, are not just a younger person’s issue. And it doesn’t just involve illicit drugs.

By Michael

Michael is the founder of Integrity Sampling and is responsible for overseeing all national operations. He is based at Integrity Sampling's head office in Melbourne and is also responsible for the co-ordination of drug and alcohol testing within Victoria, assisting in the implementation of drug and alcohol (fit for work) policies and the presentation of drug and alcohol education and awareness programs. You can connect with Michael Wheeldon on LinkedIn

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