Drug and alcohol misuse is a considerable issue within society and therefore also in the workplace. The 2018/19 Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) found that 9.4% of adults aged 16 to 59 had taken a controlled drug (as classified under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971) in the last year (up from 8.3% in the 2015/16 survey). Alcohol misuse findings from Drinkaware Monitor 2018 showed that an estimated 15% of adults in the UK are classed as high-risk drinkers (based on amount or frequency of consumption), and 2% of people within this category would be considered to have a ‘possible dependence’. 

Many aspects of work can be linked to alcohol and drug use, including:  

  • work-related stress (as found by the TUC 

  • long working hours  

  • jobs with high physical demand and risk of injury  

  • monotonous work  

  • poor supervision  

  • job insecurity (as highlighted by Dame Carol Black’s review 

  • shift or night work  

  • travelling for work  

  • working remotely  

  • business meals  

  • interface with a demanding or aggressive public (as found by the BMA in their publication Alcohol, drugs and the workplace: the role of medical professionals).  

These issues can reach into workplaces and may affect people’s performance at work in many ways. Given the statistics, it is likely that most line managers will, over the course of their career, need to provide support to someone in their team who is struggling with drug or alcohol misuse, and this information provides guidance to people managers on how to deal with this.

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