“The key to effectively reducing harms is in striking an adequate balance between prevention and treatment.”1 Those words were written by Alcohol, Tobacco and other Drugs Council of Tasmania in a document submitted to the National Drug Strategy. Treating substance abuse is critical to human health, of course, but it is also dealing with a problem after it develops. Prevention, on the other hand, stops the problem from developing, but it is a strategy that involves communicating and working with people to educate them on the dangers of substance abuse in a society where drinking at an early age is common and illicit drug use in personal lives is growing. One of the main issues concerning prevention is how to reach the people in the first place, and that is where employers take a front line position.
The public costs associated with legal and illegal drugs and alcohol abuse are staggering. Harms associated with alcohol misuse alone are estimated to be more than $15 billion annually with almost $11 billion attributed to health and labour costs and the balance to loss of life through violence.2 There is also significant amounts of public funding invested in research, like the $24 million project announced in June 2012 involving a three-year project focusing on reducing harm from alcohol, workforce development and Indigenous substance misuse.3
Most people who use drugs and alcohol are employed, which means there are more millions borne by the employer. Therefore, it is employers who can be important partners with government in preventing substance abuse. One of the ideal approaches in the workplace is too incorporate drug and alcohol education and testing into a wellness program using a health intervention perspective. Helping people stay away from drugs and alcohol teaches them how to deal with work-life issues in a positive manner and brings obvious health benefits. Even the drug and alcohol testing process can be turned into a program of positive reinforcement for maintaining a healthy lifestyle at work and at home. Employers who educate workers and encourage a substance-free lifestyle are giving staff the tools they need to make informed decisions and access to resources.
Think of it like this: Employers have access to approximately 11.6 million people working for their businesses, organisations, and agencies. That is almost 12 million people who can attend sessions on occupational safety, healthy lifestyles, and drug and alcohol education seminars. That is almost 12 million people who can learn whether their perspective on drug and alcohol use is good for their health. People do not live at work. Theywill take home what they learn in work wellness programs and share information with spouses, children, extended family, and friends.
Right Place at the Right Time With the Right People
Workplace drug and alcohol testing should be presented as a component of a healthy lifestyle. Helping people make good choices is the core of any prevention program. Employers are in the right place at the right time and have access to the right people. It is a situation in which Australian society as a whole can win.
One of the most important features of any drug and alcohol testing program is the quality of the equipment used. CMM Technology http://cmm.com.au/ has easy-to-use and reliable supplies like the Rapid Stat , the Oral Cube Saliva Drug Test, and the Lifeloc FC10 handheld breathalyser that employers can count on to perform accurately.
1 ATDC. (n.d.). Alcohol, Tobacco and other Drugs Council of Tasmania, Inc. Submission to the National Drug Strategy Consultation. Retrieved from National Drug Strategy: http://www.nationaldrugstrategy.gov.au/internet/drugstrategy/publishing.nsf/Content/ndssubs-077/$FILE/077_ATDC_03-03-2010.pdf
2 Matthew Manning, Christine Smith and Paul Mazerolle. (April 2013), The societal costs of alcohol misuse in Australia. Trends & issues in crime and criminal justice no. 454. Retrieved at http://www.aic.gov.au/publications/current%20series/tandi/441-460/tandi454.html.
3 $24 million for Drug and Alcohol Research. (2012, June). Retrieved from Ausstralian Government Department of Health and Ageing: http://www.health.gov.au/internet/ministers/publishing.nsf/Content/mr-yr12-mb-mb056.htm?OpenDocument&yr=2012&mth=06