The binge drinking employee

drug free workplace, workplace drug testYou may have a binge drinking employee in your workplace and they may not present like the “typical” heavy or alcoholic drinker. Binge drinking is somewhat different from solid, heavy or longstanding drinking behaviours. And for this reason, it may be difficult to spot or identify in the workplace. However, the impact on other employees, and the binge-drinker’s inability to remain consistent with responsibilities and workplace duties and attendance, may lead to team problems and organisational difficulties for management who have to repeatedly address and deal with the associated behaviours.

Definition

Binge drinking or episodic drinking is defined as “drinking heavily on a single occasion, or drinking continuously over a number of days or weeks. It is also commonly referred to in Australia as drinking to get drunk, or getting wasted, getting wiped or getting smashed.”[1]

In Australia, binge drinking has even been viewed as socially acceptable by male teens and young adult men, and traditionally has been tied in with male social bonding and enculturation.

But when this crosses over into the workplace or occurs sporadically yet repeatedly in an episodic manner over time by an employee, the impact to your organisation can be real and frustrating.

Some of the short term effects of binge drinking include

  • Hangovers
  • Nausea
  • Shakiness
  • Committing and memory loss
  • Injury to yourself
  • Alcohol poisoning
  • Absenteeism
  • Disorganisation
  • Irresponsibility
  • Violence
  • Workplace problems[2]

The Australian Drug Foundation states that the National Drug Strategy Survey found that over 10% of Australians 14 years and over drink dangerously.[3] Translated to the workplace, this may correlate to nearly 10% of the employee workforce, and because binge drinking is largely socially acceptable, the issue may well be far more severe than we realise. Alcohol abuse is so severe in Australia it costs us $36 billion per year.

In March 2008, the government of Australia launched a new campaign focusing on binge drinking, titled the “National Binge Drinking Strategy,” which supplied over $53 million to address the problem among the younger section of the population.[4] The program was largely aimed at developing community resources and advertising campaigns to address the problem.

You too can develop workplace strategies to fight the effects of binge drinking. Some approached that may be of use include:

  • Onsite breathalyser testing for employees
  • Employee Assistance Programs that assist problem drinkers in your workplace
  • Information about responsible drinking habits
  • Clearly outlined AOD procedures and policies
  • A non-punitive approach that seeks to help rather than hinder a binge-drinking employee

You can help to protect your workplace from the effects of binge-drinking employees. Develop a comprehensive drug and alcohol testing program and you can reap the rewards, knowing your workplace is safer and more secure and less severely impacted by AOD issues. For more information on high quality screening products please telephone CMM Technology’s specialist staff on 618 9204 2500.


[1] http://au.reachout.com/fin/articles/binge-drinking

[2] http://au.reachout.com/find/articles/binge-drinking

[3] http://www.druginfo.adf.org.au/fact-sheets/the-facts-about-binge-drinking-web-fact-sheet

[4] http://www.health.gov.au/internet/alcohol/publishing.nsf/Content/cli

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