Updated: May 14, 2020
Australians are buying and drinking more alcohol than usual during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The YouGov Galaxy poll shows that 70% of people are drinking more with one-third drinking every day.
Approximately 28% of these are now drinking to cope with anxiety and stress. Concerns about exposure to the virus as well as the effects of social isolation, negativity, reduced or lost employment and the downturn in the economy are all contributing factors.
People are also turning to drugs to “feel better” about this new and uncertain world. Doctors are increasingly concerned that people are self-medicating with alcohol and mood enhancers such as ecstasy (MDMA), psychedelics and cannabis to deal with increased mental illness or stress. Whilst this trend represents a significant concern at the community level, it is also very disturbing when thinking about our workplaces.
Not only the potential rise in employee use of drugs or alcohol at work, but the impact from their use at home. Employees may be working intermittently or to a different schedule and this change in work routine may make it more difficult for them to ensure that their drug or alcohol levels comply with your company policy.
We have noticed this first-hand with an increase in non-negative test results for THC and methamphetamine in particular; as well as an increase in positive alcohol tests results across our client base so far this year.
There has been no relaxation in WHS legal requirements to provide a safe workplace.
US and European experiences have shown that when workplace drug testing is suspended, drug use can increase with a corresponding rise in accidents. Enforcing your alcohol and drug policy, including testing, is key demonstration of your company’s continued focus on safety and maintains the culture of safety first.