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The cost of drug and alcohol abuse

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Drug and alcohol abuse costs our society millions of dollars each year.

Although commonly associated with lower socioeconomic groups or blue collar workers, drug, alcohol and substance abuse is in fact prevalent in all areas of society. Illicit drug use and abuse of alcohol and other mind-altering substances is responsible for death and disability, not only of the abuser, but of those who work and live with them.

Under the New Zealand Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992, employers are required to ensure the safety of their employees when in the workplace. This Act will be replaced and come into force on 1 April 2015, by the Health and Safety at Work Act. Many employers now recognise that an important part of ensuring safety in the workplace is in adopting a robust policy around drug screening/testing of employees. As alcohol and drug abuse affect the individual’s overall performance and judgment, employers need to be assured that their employees come to work drug- and alcohol-free. Employees have the right to work in a safe environment which includes eliminating the risk of working with others who are under the influence of alcohol, drugs or other mind-altering substances. It is imperative that company managers and their employees are trained to recognise the signs and symptoms of drug and alcohol abuse and that there are company policies in place to enable trained workplace drug screening personnel to perform onsite urine drug screening.

Traditionally, drug and alcohol screening has been conducted in ‘safety-sensitive’ roles in industries such as forestry, construction, transport, agriculture and mining. However, when it comes to workplace health, safety, and productivity, there are few workplaces that wouldn’t benefit from a robust drug and alcohol policy and screening programme.