How alcohol and drug training improves workplaces

pills and liquor

Workplaces have the capacity to improve or worsen substance abuse, a new study has found.

Researchers at the National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction (NCETA) at Flinders University have studied the experiences of more than 100 managers and supervisors who undertook alcohol and other drug (AOD) training sessions.

The research found that workplaces have the potential to “prevent, ameliorate or exacerbate” AOD use — even causing higher rates of stress and substance use.

With use of illicit drugs increasing against a backdrop of a general decline in risky drinking, business can benefit from a series of training workshops to keep abreast of key issues including cannabis and opioid addiction.

Companies which invest in training managers and supervisors in AOD ‘first aid’ courses can enhance the workplace culture, policy and physical environment to make the hours at work less risky and healthier.

According to the researchers, workplaces should take a new year’s resolution to take a systemic top-down approach to cut down on alcohol and other drug (AOD) abuse — and in turn help to uncover ‘hidden’ problems which could affect employee health, injury rates, productivity and company profitability.

Drug and alcohol first-aid programs can improve knowledge, skills and understanding in tackling workplace AOD risk, the associated stigma and also raise levels of individual self-help.

With alcohol-related absenteeism costing Australian businesses up to $2 billion a year, health authorities also note rises in prescribed opioid addition and crystal methamphetamine use.

To be most effective, this ‘top-down’ management should complement individual worker AOD training and reporting, said NCETA Director Professor Ann Roche.

“This study highlights the potential for tackling alcohol and other drug issues in their early stages, commencing with testing and information sessions for individual workers to help encourage and sustain more healthy behaviours,” Roche said.

“As well as a range of ‘bottom-up’ approaches, the ‘top-down’ approach can have myriad benefits — including an opportunity to identify associated workplace conditions such as potential precursors such as stress or bullying.”

The researchers said further research is warranted into the applicability of drug and alcohol first aid in different workplaces and occupation groups.

“While more than half the participants in workplace AOD workshops say they didn’t have a chance to apply the skills they learnt in the workshop, we recommend more follow-up training and wider implementation of such programs — particularly in industries with high and endemic rates of AOD.”

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