Impact of substance use on the Australian workforce

July 2014
Gates, P., Grove, R., & Copeland, J. (2013). Impact of substance use on the Australian workforce. Journal of Addiction and Prevention, 1, 6.

Employee substance use may incur substantial costs to society and employers through decreased workplace productivity and increased employee turnover, absenteeism and worker stress.   The annual cost of reduced workplace productivity associated with alcohol and illicit drug use in Australia was estimated at approximately $5 billion in 2004.

The ability of Australian workplaces to make an informed response to workplace drug use is impeded by a lack of information on workplace substance use and differences across industries and occupations.

The authors investigated two waves of data from a large nationally representative survey. Measurements included workplace substance use, working under the influence of a substance in the past year, past 90 day substance-related absenteeism and past year workplace abuse.

Despite overall increases in substance use at a population level, workplace problems relating to substance use either remained stable across 2007 and 2010 or reduced. Workplace substance use problems were elevated among those in the hospitality and construction industries. In contrast, those in education and training, agriculture industries and in managerial and professional occupations were at lesser risk of many workplace problems. Public health initiatives targeting workplace substance-related problems will be improved by narrowing the target by worker industry and occupation.