Home > Workplaces and drugs: health and social responses.

European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction. (2022) Workplaces and drugs: health and social responses. Lisbon: European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction.

PDF (Workplaces and drugs: health and social responses) - Published Version

External website: https://www.emcdda.europa.eu/publications/mini-gui...

Key issues

A significant proportion of workers in Europe are likely to have problems associated with alcohol or drug use; for example, it is estimated that between 5 % and 20 % of the working population in Europe have serious problems related to their use of alcohol. In addition to the general public health and social implications, substance use problems are highly relevant in industries which involve safety issues or where individual performance failings can have a significant impact. This includes, but is not limited to, the construction, farming, transport, power, ICT and financial services sectors. 

Alcohol and drug use are important issues in workplaces because: 

  • they can increase accidents and injuries, absenteeism and inappropriate behaviour;
  • they can impose an economic burden on employers, governments and society;
  • employers have a duty under health and safety laws to protect, as far as reasonable, the health, safety and welfare of employees and others affected by their activities;
  • workplaces also provide opportunities for health education about alcohol and drugs and to identify individuals who have problems with alcohol and drug use or have family members with drug or alcohol problems. 

The workplace also has a potential role in supporting the social reintegration of people with a history of drug problems. 

Evidence and responses

There is no comprehensive overview of the extent and nature of different types of interventions in workplaces in Europe. Moreover, the evidence regarding effectiveness of different interventions is scarce. 

Responses implemented may include: 

  • company policies focusing on the consumption of alcohol and drugs in the workplace and support for employees with substance use problems;
  • prevention through information, education and training programmes addressing alcohol and drugs issues, preferably as part of wider health promotion programmes;
  • formal screening and drug testing in safety-critical industries;
  • interventions to identify employees experiencing substance-related problems and provide support for them, including the facilitation of referral to treatment and rehabilitation programmes;
  • actions exploring organisational-level factors that may be contributing to drug-related problems among the workforce;
  • providing employment opportunities for people with a history of drug problems.
  • European picture
  • Most European countries have some kind of general legislation or agreements to prohibit or regulate the consumption of alcohol and drugs in the workplace. However, the type of legislation in force and the nature of occupational safety and health legislation varies considerably depending on the national culture and the awareness of and priority given to the issue. 

Looking to the future, the use of human enhancement drugs, such as modafinil for improving cognitive function, may become a growing issue in the workplace.


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