Harm Reduction

Employee Drug Testing, Saliva Drug Test, BreathalyserHarm reduction as a therapeutic approach and goal was popularised in the 1990’s. Prior to this, the standard approaches to AOD issues were detoxification, abstinence and maintenance programmes such as methadone which afforded substance users the opportunity to regain some minor stability and possibly even enter the workforce. The Australian Institute of Criminology points to a number of harm reduction strategies which in turn can, in some instances, be applied as a component of Employee Assistance Programmes where the goal of abstinence is still some way off.[1]

But the issue of harm reduction is somewhat difficult when applied to the workplace. In industry areas where there is legislative ruling against drug and alcohol usage, the implementation of a harm reduction strategy will invariably require a time-out or time-off approach away from the workplace. But even in industry or areas where drug and alcohol usage is not entirely legislated against, employers should still proceed with caution when confronted by an employee who wishes to initiate harm reduction strategies as part of his workplace treatment approach.

Harm Reduction Strategies in Australia

The Australian Government’s National Drug Strategy acknowledges “there are a number of challenges in any attempt to apply prevention and/or harm reduction approaches.”[2] It also outlines key principles that can be adopted in harm reduction cases:

  • Make the strategy comprehensive
  • Consider full range of social (or workplace) influences on use
  • Make sure strategy is clearly targeted for the individual employee
  • Must be culturally sensitive
  • Must be developmentally appropriate
  • Must have clear objectives and guidelines
  • Must be evaluated for both positive and negative affects[3]

The substance abuser and manipulation

One of the factors complicating the use of harm reduction approaches in the workplace is the manipulation that is part and parcel of the alcohol and other drug abuser’s modus operandi. According to Psychiatry and Wellness website, “the first casualty of addiction is the truth….Lying, evasion, deception, manipulation, spinning and other techniques for avoiding or distorting the truth are necessary parts of the addictive process.”[4] This means that your workplace dealings with the substance abuser may get difficult, cloudy, unclear and frustrating. And the need for stringent measures may be more appropriate than the soft touch harm reduction approach. The latter may be appropriate for social or family settings, but may be grossly inadequate in the workplace where profit, employee relations, issues of liability and safety must take precedence.

CMM Technology fosters a non-punitive yet stringent approach to AOD issues in the workplace. It maintains that quality testing in tandem with other strategies can best safeguard the employer, employees, profits and workplace structures from the threat of substance abuse.  CMM Technology offers a range of excellent testing technologies that can help you fight the battle against drugs and alcohol in the workplace.

For more information on quality testing devices, please telephone one of the CMM Technology team on +618 1300 79 70 30.


[1] http://www.aic.gov.au/crime_types/drugs_alcohol/illicit_drugs/harm_reduction.aspx

[2] http://www.health.gov.au/

[3] http://www.health.gov.au/

[4] http://www.bma-wellness.com/papers/Addiction_Lies_Rel.html

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