It is a common misconception that illicit drug use, in particular ice, is confined to the unemployed or blue collar workers and that they are easily detected by their appearance and actions. A recent case brought before the Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) found that a doctor in the St Vincent’s Hospital Emergency department “attended work on many occasions between June 2012 and April 2013 under the influence of drugs including ice and cocaine”1. If a professional can go undetected, surrounded by other health professionals, then it is highly unlikely illicit drug users will be detected by their appearance alone in any workplace.
This is also not an isolated incident. A survey of trainee nurses (2) found that 28.5% admitted to using cannabis and 4.5% to using amphetamines. Illicit drug use also crosses all socio-economic strata’s(SES) with the 2013 National Drug Strategy Household Survey detailed report(3) finding a higher use of cocaine and ecstasy in the highest SES than in the lowest.
What does this mean for the workplace?
1) Illicit drug users can be from any profession and at any level of seniority
2) Even trained health professionals cannot necessarily identify colleagues who are impaired by illicit drugs by their behaviour or appearance.
The only reliable and independent way of identifying any worker who is potentially impaired in the workplace is with an effective drug and alcohol testing programme conducted by trained professionals. Contact DASA at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how we can assist your organisation.
3) Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2014). 2013 National Drug Strategy Household Survey detailed report. Canberra: AIHW.