The Stigma of Addiction: An Essential Guide

February 2019
Roche, A., Kostadinov, V., & Pidd, K. (2019). The Stigma of Addiction in the Workplace. In J. D. Avery & J. J. Avery (Eds.), The Stigma of Addiction: An Essential Guide. Switzerland: Springer.

Alcohol and other drug use (AOD) is one of society’s most stigmatised behaviours. It manifests in a variety of settings and contexts, including the workplace.

A key factor underpinning AOD-related stigmatisation in the workplace is negative assumptions about drugs and alcohol and the attributes of people who use them. Such assumptions can stem from value judgments about people who use AOD, and misperceptions about the nature/potential effects of AOD use and subsequent consequences for the workplace.

Individuals who use AOD may be assumed to not have the necessary skills, attributes, and competencies to be good employees and/or conversely to be dangerous, criminals, or untrustworthy. These assumptions can result in discrimination in hiring and promotional decisions, and exclusion/marginalisation from professional and social interactions.

NCETA has developed a “whole of workplace” approach that is a central strategy for workplaces seeking to address employee AOD use in a non-stigmatising manner. The approach based on NCETA’s extensive workplace research program recognises AOD use as a wider workforce wellbeing issue that can affect any employee rather than seeing it as a “problem” that resides exclusively within a minority of individual employees.

Pivotal elements of NCETA’s whole of workplace approach to addressing AOD use include:

  • Comprehensive workplace AOD policies
  • Appropriate risk assessment
  • Education and training
  • Workplace health promotion programs
  • Peer intervention
  • Psychosocial skills training.

NCETA’s research has found that workplace settings are ideal environments in which to implement anti-stigma strategies such as workplace policies and support systems for employees who use AOD.

The findings from NCETA’s research have been recently published by Springer in a book called The Stigma of Addiction: An Essential Guide. To find out more about AOD stigma in the workplace click here and go to Chapter 10, The Stigma of Addiction in the Workplace. The Chapter, written by NCETA, provides practical strategies for workplaces to identify and ameliorate AOD-related stigma.