Drugs and Alcohol

Drugs and alcohol can have a serious impact on the workplace.

In Australia, as with most if not all other countries, drugs and alcohol are used with frequency throughout the community. This has an obvious impact on the workforce.


Just how big is Australia's drug problem?

Man smoking joint

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, recent illicit drug use in the community has been relatively stable over the last decade:

  • Around one in seven people had used an illicit substance in the last year,
  • Almost one in ten had used in the last month, and
  • More than half of these had used a substance in the last week.

As some drugs can impair workers' capacity to perform safely hours or days after consumed, this could mean individuals are attending your workplace negatively impacted by illicit substances.

But what about alcohol?

Alcohol is a significant part of Australian culture. This brings the danger of it finding its way into the workplace, with impacts on physical health, mental health, and safety of workers.

A report on the construction industry found that

Man staring at liquor drink

  • Half of all adult workers, and more than six in ten apprentices drink at risky levels
  • More than one in ten reported it would be difficult to cut down or stop drinking
  • Half of these reported that they had a drinking problem

How does this impact business?

Drugs and alcohol have a number of direct and indirect costs to business.


So how can businesses address the problem?

Medvet suggests the four stages of of a management program:

The Four Aspects of Drug & Alcohol Programs


A drug and alcohol policy (also labelled as AOD or Alcohol and Other Drug policy) forms the foundation of addressing the use of substances in the workplace. The procedure supporting the policy includes the roles and responsibilities of the employer, workplace, managers/supervisors, those who implement the policy, and employees.

Medvet can help you develop or review your policy


Educating employees is a vital aspect of addressing drugs and alcohol at work. Drug and alcohol awareness education provides employees with information about the harms of substance use, as well as how policies contribute to health and wellbeing. Reasonable cause training can help supervisors identify and respond to issues in the workplace.

Importantly, if an organisation does not educate on policy and expectations, the policy may lack enforceability.

Medvet can help educate your workforce.


With a policy in place and a team educated about these expectations, testing can occur. Recent drug or alcohol use can predict a worker attending work under the influence of a substance, and workplace drug testing can be effective in identifying recent drug use that may pose a risk to a safe workplace.

Medvet has extensive experience working with clients to conduct testing.


Enforcing a drug and alcohol policy does not have to be about punishing infractions. An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is an important component of workplace responses to drug and alcohol use. Employees are referred to the service, voluntarily after a first confirmed positive test result, providing them with the care needed to return to productivity and safe behaviour.

Medvet can help you run an effective drug and alcohol program, and manage the impact of inappropriate substance use on your organisation.

Manufactiring worker giving okay sign