Figure This…

The increase of drug use over the past few decades has been substantial with significant cost to industry, business, family life and socio-cultural framework that underpins daily life. According to the 2005 World Drug Report, “200 million people, or 5% of the world’s population in the 15-64 age group have used drugs at least once in the last 12 months. This is 15 million people more than the year before.”[1] The report also estimates the number of cannabis users worldwide to be as high as 160 million, or approximately 4% of the population, aged 15-64.[2]

In Australia, the scenario is much the same. According to Collins and Lapsley, the estimated cost of substance and alcohol misuse and related sickness, illness and accident to national productive capacity could be as high as 5.5 billion dollars of gross production costs, and even higher, when one takes into account inflation rates over the past decade.[3] Historically the cost of substance and alcohol abuse and use that have led to accidents is comparatively easy to quantify, but the measurement of impact in relation to managerial decision-making and on-site decision making along the chain of command is a more subtle and difficult figure to gauge. What remains clear however is that the impact to industry is significant and requires thorough and thoughtful consideration on an ongoing basis in order to ensure adequate profit and workplace health and wellbeing.

The National Drug Strategy figures for 2004-05 substantiate the above claim, with the view that selected tangible drug and alcohol abuse costs to workplace production stand at:

  • Alcohol – $3.578 billion
  • Illicit drugs – $1.622 billion.[4]

Certainly it seems testing procedures can go some way in reducing these figures as part of a concerted drug and alcohol management plan for any industry or organisation. Interestingly, in 2005, Collins and Lapsley pointed to the possible need for a “more intensive enforcement of random breath-testing as a measure to continue to reduce drink-driving.”[5] This follows along the lines submitted in the Rosita 2 study for roadside testing, which indicates “the experience in the state of Victoria in Australia shows that random roadside oral fluid testing of drivers for methamphetamine and cannabis has a deterrent effect.[6]

This “deterrent’ factor, has significant ongoing implications for business and industry. In Australia, a good proportion of heavy industry organisations have already rolled out drug and alcohol testing as part of their Fitness for Duty and OHS policies and procedures, either in accord with current state and federal legislation or as an individualised initiative in keeping with their workplace health and wellbeing models. But perhaps there is room for an even more intensive approach where levels of enforcement are kept at an optimum.

Collins and Lapsley also note that “there is substantial evidence that random breath testing (on the road) loses much of its effect if levels of enforcement are too low or if the enforcement effort is insufficiently well targeted.”[7] What is also evident is that “the greater the increase in testing levels, the more the reduction in accidents falls….”[8]

Certainly, the deterrent effect of drug testing on the roads and also in business and industry is now gaining favour and legitimacy as an almost essential component of the wise monitoring of drug and alcohol misuse in the workforce and community. Additionally the thorough consideration of test frequency, intensity and overall structure are all essential it optimum profit and wellbeing outcomes are to be realised. If you require advice on quality screening programs and testing products, call CMM Technology on 08 9204 2500.


[1]2005 World Drug Report. Volume 1: Analysis. 1-185. 2005. Vienna, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

[2] Ibid.

[3] Collins, D.J. and Lapsley, H.M 2002. Counting the Cost: estimates of the social cost of drug abuse in Australia in 1998-9, Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing, Canberra.

[4] The costs of tobacco, alcohol and illicit drug abuse to Australian Society 2004-05. National Drug Strategy, Department of Health and Ageing, Federal Government of Australia, Canberra.

[5] Collins D.J.,and Lapsley H.M. The Avoidable Costs of Alcohol Abuse in Australia and the potential benefits of effective policies to reduce the social costs of Alcohol. Department of Health and Ageing. Australian Federal Government. 2005

[6] Verstraete, A., Raes, E. Rosita 2 Project Final Report, March 2006, Ghent University, Belgium.

[7] Ibid. Collins and Lapsley, 2005

[8] Ibid.

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