Drug and alcohol education vital

Education about alcohol and other drugs is vital in the community and in the workplace too. Credit Justin Aikin https://unsplash.com/photos/woman-drinking-wine-x-6HB8_qE4A

If you drank alcohol to excess or took other drugs at risky levels, would you recognise you had an issue? It seems that most people don’t, leading the Alcohol and Drug Foundation to call for more drug and alcohol education.

The call for increased drug and alcohol education comes on the back of a survey commissioned by the Alcohol and Drug Foundation or ADF. As highlighted in an ADF media release, the survey revealed that “only 20 per cent of people who use alcohol and other drugs at risky levels believe their use is a problem.”

The survey involved more than 3600 Australian adults. Among other findings:

  • Of those participants that used alcohol regularly, nearly half were classified as doing so at risky levels.
  • For those who used drugs regularly, more than 92 per cent were at moderate or high risk levels.
  • Although most individuals consuming alcohol and other substances at high-risk levels initially perceived their usage as unproblematic, nearly 90 percent of them expressed a desire to alter their consumption habits.
  • Conversely, those operating at moderate risk levels exhibited a lower inclination toward change (50%), primarily stemming from their perception that their usage wasn’t problematic and was, in fact, enjoyable.
  • While a small number of participants showed a likelihood of altering their behaviour, various barriers, such as the perception that their consumption wasn’t problematic, hindered this change.
  • Among those who did seek assistance, a majority achieved success. They were more inclined to adopt self-management techniques rather than pursuing formal or professional help.

ADF CEO Dr Erin Lalor AM said in the media release that it’s concerning that many people at risk of experiencing harms from alcohol and other drugs aren’t aware their use is a problem.

“… Which is why we urgently need greater investment in education around risky drinking and other drug use, including clear information about the harm it causes

“Far too many people are losing their lives to alcohol and other drugs. Tragically, recent ABS data revealed the alcohol-induced death rate in 2022 had reached its highest level in over a decade, while the annual number of unintentional drug-induced deaths has surpassed the road toll since 2014.

“Additionally, the harms associated with alcohol and other drugs in our community are widespread, impacting mental health, suicide, road trauma, domestic violence, emergency department presentations, housing insecurity, and many other social issues.”

What constitutes risky alcohol and other drug use?

For the survey, alcohol and other drug use was assessed using a screening test developed by Alcohol, Smoking and Substance Involvement Screening or ASSIST.

The test involves a series of questions asking participants about their use of several substances, including alcohol, cannabis, opioids and sleeping medication. The questions cover aspects such as which substances they have used, how often they use, how strong is their desire to use and whether anyone has expressed a concern about their use. Scores are added up at the end to provide a determination of whether the participant is at low, moderate or high risk.

For cannabis, for example, participants were asked if they had used the drug in the last three months, whether they had a strong desire or urge to use cannabis at least once a week and whether anyone had expressed a concern about their use. One or two yes answers constituted a moderate risk, while all three yes answers were classified as high risk.

Workplace drug and alcohol education also vital

While general awareness of the dangers of drugs and alcohol is vital in the community, education is also important in the workplace.

A comprehensive education program should encompass the following elements:

  1. Education on the health and safety repercussions associated with the misuse of drugs and alcohol.
  2. Highlighting the prevalence of drugs and alcohol within both the workplace and society.
  3. Presenting specific details regarding your workplace’s drugs and alcohol policy, encompassing any testing procedures conducted and the repercussions for failing or refusing these tests.

Integrity Sampling’s experienced consultants can help develop and present education to your employees, contractors and other stakeholders. To find out more about how to increase your workplace’s knowledge about drugs and alcohol, contact Integrity Sampling today.

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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