Living through this pandemic has been tough on everyone; Children have been cooped up at home, rid of the freedom they once enjoyed and parents now have the daunting task of taking care of their families’ while working full time remotely. Balancing family life, work and the stress of living in this pandemic is enough to make anyone seek solace from drugs and alcohol.
Speaking to this, the CEO of the UK Addiction Treatment Group, Eytan Alexander said, “it is very “naive” of anyone to think that the experiences of the past months for workers would not lead to a huge rise in alcohol and drug use.”
Eytan’s comments added to the findings of separate pieces of research over the summer by the OECD and the UN, which underlined that drug and alcohol consumption have increased in homes in western Europe and in the US.
Personnel Today reported that nine out of 10 workers had admitted to drinking alcohol while working. Research findings from the UN also suggested that tech innovation, the dark web and the use of new platforms to sell products has ushered in “a globalised market where all drugs are more available and accessible everywhere”.
According to Suzannah Robin, sales and training director at drug testing equipment firm AlcoDigital, the disturbing figures underlined that, employers of weekend and shift workers ought to recognize that employees could still be under the influence when they arrive at work after a night out – or night in.
She said, “If drugs or alcohol are still in the system, no amount of coffee or paracetamol can disguise the fact that the employee could be a liability to themselves and to those working around them, particularly in safety critical industries such as transport and construction.”
While employees may be subject to periodic alcohol tests at work, most people have become better at hiding drug and alcohol problems especially during this pandemic where meetings are usually held virtually.
“Those in managerial or senior positions need to let off steam and more than you’d think turn to drugs and alcohol as coping mechanisms to their employment pressures.” Said Alexander, of the UK Addiction Treatment Group.
“Across our treatment centers, we’ve seen a staggering rise in the number of ‘professionals’ we’re treating for drug and alcohol addiction since the Covid-19 lockdowns eased; I’d say at least one in every 10 addicts we treat is a senior/ manager, chief executive or managing director.”, he continued.
MANAGING DRUG AND ALCOHOL USE AMONG EMPLOYERS & EMPLOYEES On managing drug and alcohol use among members of the workforce, Alexander added that drug and alcohol awareness schemes were part of the answer. “We’re not here to encourage employers to make their staff’s jobs less stressful. But what we can do is support employers and their employees by offering a completely free drug and alcohol awareness programme. The programme allows for open and honest conversation in confidence, and provides ways to get support outside of work.”
“Ultimately if an employer cares about the wellbeing of their staff – which we know will only improve their business operationally – then this programme is for them. To think that drugs and alcohol will never affect your staff after such a difficult 18 months is incredibly naive.” Companies also need to be watchful when it came to employees returning from furlough, said Suzannah Robin. “Extra caution should be taken with returning staff members who have potentially developed a reliance on alcohol or drugs, either to help fill their time at home or deal with the stress the last year has presented.”
“Unfortunately, the signs are that some people will struggle to keep their drinking in check, and others will have developed a drug habit during lockdown. If these problems are carried into the workplace, the consequences can be dire. We’d urge all employers to take a fresh look at their overall health and safety policy and consider whether in-house testing is the best way to manage drug or alcohol misuse.”, concluded Robin.