The Undisclosed Cost of Substance Abuse in the UK Workplace

Why is substance addiction in the workplace an important topic in the UK?

75% of the people who use illicit drugs make up 17% of the total workforce in the UK. 3% of the workforce (i.e. 3 million workers) show up for work under the influence of alcohol yearly, 60% of adults are acquainted with someone who has gone to work under the influence of substances, 15% of workers get drunk at work at least occasionally, and 24% of workers have reported drinking during the workday at least once in the past year.

Alcohol and drug abuse cost the UK 21 and 15 billion Euros respectively. The annual cost of missed work days and loss of productivity due to alcohol misuse stands at 17 million Euros and 7.3 billion Euros respectively.

9 in 10 drug abusers work at small or medium-sized businesses. 1 in 10 small business owners reported that employees have shown up to work under the influence of a controlled substance. Businesses lose 100 billion Euros annually (up to 10% of annual payroll) due to substance abuse.

Substance abuse is behind 40% of industrial accidents and 60% of incidents of poor performance. Most alcohol-related performance problems in the workplace are a result of workers drinking just before showing up to work or having a hangover.

33% of employees admit to having shown up for work with a hangover, 83% of those who have had a hangover at work admit that it affected the way they work, and 22% (nearly 1 in 4) admit to having made mistakes at work when they showed up with a hangover.

Some of the impacts of drug dependence and alcoholism in the workplace include absenteeism/additional sick leave, lowered productivity, increased injury/accident rate, fatal accidents, and premature death.

Industries with the highest number of problem drinkers (per 1000 workers)

  • Installation, business, maintenance and repair (106)
  • Leisure and hospitality (109)
  • Retail (114)
  • Wholesale (115)
  • Construction and mining (135)

Industries with the highest rate of drug use

  • Installation, maintenance, and repair (9.5%)
  • Sales (9.6%)
  • Sports and media (12.4%)
  • Construction (15.1%)
  • Food preparation and serving (17.4%).

There are more generally men than women, managers than underlings, younger people than older people, and single people than married, who drink in the workplace.

Men whose jobs are considered blue-collar stand 3.5 times the risk of death from an alcohol-related disease than men in managerial positions.

Workforce drug positivity test

As the rate of substance abuse increases in the UK, drug testing programs have been put in place to help alleviate this negative workplace situation and ensure safety. Testing data in 2016 shows workforce drug positivity to be at its highest after 12 years, since 2004, driven by illicit drugs. Urine drug tests showed a 43% increase in positivity in the tested workforce from 2007-2011.

44% of employees tested positive for cocaine, 60% tested positive for marijuana, and 66% tested positive for opiates.

3.23% of employees tested in 2011 had drugs in their system. Individuals between the ages of 23 and 34 are most likely to test positive for Class As.

An infographic from the team at Addiction Helper

UK The Hidden cost of substance abuseUK The Hidden cost of substance abuse

Canada Votes to Legalise Recreational Cannabis

The Canadian parliament has voted to pass a law legalising recreational cannabis use, with the country becoming the first major economy to do so.

Canada’s Cannabis Act won in a 52-29 vote in the country’s senate, proving a series of controls and regulations on how cannabis can be grown and marketed to consumers. From September, the act will allow Canadian consumers to purchase cannabis legally throughout the country.

While recreational cannabis laws were passed in several US states over the past decade, the new law makes Canada the first major economy and G7 member to allow cannabis use on a nationwide scale.

The new law is one of several election promises made by the Liberal Party during its previous campaign. As of 2018, the only other country that allows recreational cannabis use is Uruguay.

Canada was one of the first countries to allow medical use of cannabis, with the drug legalised for limited medical use in the country since 1981. However, the new bills opens cannabis use to non-medical users, including the general public.

The law also creates several new restrictions on cannabis use and offenses for illegal growth or sales of the drug. For example, the sale of cannabis products to people aged under 18 is strictly prohibited under the new law.

Under the new law, Canadian provinces and territories also have the ability to set independent minimum ages for cannabis use, allowing provincial governments to restrict access to people above the nationwide minimum age of 18.

Several Canadian provinces and territories have minimum drinking ages of 19, which analysts expect to be repeated for cannabis consumption.

Although Canada is the first G7 country to legalise the use of recreational cannabis, it’s not the only country discussing such a move. Throughout the UK, there’s been increasing debate about the merits and potential benefits of legalising medical and/or recreational cannabis.

Recently, despite an increase in lobbying for the legalisation of cannabis, both the NHS and the Home Secretary have taken steps to reject new laws, claiming that legalising cannabis has the potential to “introduce new risks for young people.”

Despite this, there have been significant efforts made to provide a path towards the legalisation of cannabis, with a group of Tory MPs, academics and legalisation campaigners noting that the drug’s illegal status has produced “stronger, more damaging” form of cannabis.

Under the new law, the Canadian government will regulate the sale of cannabis. The drug (and its byproducts, including oils) will be available for sale only at regulated shops, with the sale of edible forms of cannabis restricted for one year after the law passes.

Edible cannabis products (known as “edibles”) will be subject to separate regulations, which are expected to be introduced in the next year.

Under the law, adults will be able to carry as much as 30 grams of cannabis for recreational use. The law also allows Canadian adults to grow up to four marijuana plants at home. Despite this, provinces such Manitoba and Quebec are likely to ban home growing of cannabis plants.

Prime Minister Trudeau believes that the new law will fix a “failed system” of drug offenses while removing the “criminal element” that’s linked to marijuana cultivation, sale and usage throughout the country.

 

MP Claims UK “Drugs Market of Europe”

Tottenham MP David Lammy has claimed that the UK is the “drugs market of Europe” and that an increase in the trade in illegal drugs is responsible for an increase in levels of violent crime around the country.

Lammy’s claims have started a conversation in the UK about drug use, as well as the scale of the illegal drug trade and the problem of drug addiction in Britain.

According to the Home Office, the illegal drug industry in Britain generates as much as £5.3bn annually. Similar figures from the Office for National Statistics estimate that illegal drug revenue is approximately £4.4 billion every year.

However, figures from the National Crime Agency put the value of the illegal drug market even higher, estimating that black market drug sales in the UK generate as much as £10.7 billion in illegal revenue on an annual basis.

One reason for the discrepancy in figures in the way in which the “value” of the illicit drug trade is calculated. Whie the Home Office and ONS only estimate income from sales of illegal drugs, the National Crime Agency also accounts for the costs of drug use to the general public.

These costs include expenses involved in law enforcement and criminal justice, as well as the immense costs to the NHS caused by the use of illegal drugs. The National Crime Agency also takes into account the cost of crimes, such as thefts, committed by users of illegal drugs.

Even the most conservative estimates of the scale of Britain’s drug trade highlight how large the problem is, as well as the cost it has on society.

According to survey data, almost 10 per cent of British adults admit that they’ve used an illegal drug in the last 12 months. Interestingly, this is slightly lower than the percentage recorded via previous surveys, such as a similar confidential survey carried out 10 years ago.

Despite this, many experts believe that today’s illegal drug market is more dangerous than ever before due to the increase in sales of illicit opioids, which are far more likely to lead to addiction than many of the widely used recreational drugs.

Opioids, which include medications such as morphine and heroin, are also more likely to result in death or serious bodily harm in the event of an overdose than more widely used recreational drugs such as cannabis and ecstasy.

An increase in the use of heroin is particularly worrying. Many of the UK’s seaside resort towns top the list of overdose deaths from opioids such as morphine and heroin, with the death rate of Blackpool twice as high as any other city in England and Wales.

Other coastal towns have significant heroin problems, with 10 of the 14 UK communities most affected by heroin located along the coast. In these towns, the rate of opiate deaths is 4.5 per 100,000 people; nationally, it’s just 1.7 in England and 2.3 in Wales.

While MP David Lammy’s claim that the UK is the “drugs market of Europe” may or may not be accurate, the UK certainly has a problem of drug addiction — one that’s becoming increasingly problematic in certain parts of the nation.

Doctors Warn NHS is “Creating Drug Addicts”

An increase in the number of people prescribed opioid painkillers in the UK has resulted in drug counsellors and doctors warning that the policies of the NHS could result in a higher number of people becoming addicted to drugs.

In a recent BBC investigation, reporters discovered that almost 24 million opioid tablets, ranging from tramadol to morphine and fentanyl, were prescribed in the UK last year. The number is an increase of almost 90% from 2007, just one decade ago.

Opioid painkillers can be highly addictive. The drugs are often prescribed for recurring injuries or after surgery as part of legitimate pain management treatment, but users can quickly develop an addiction to the drugs even at the prescribed dosage.

Prescription rates for opioid medicines are highest in industrial areas of the country, with areas in northern England topping the list. Many regions in the north have opioid prescribing rates as much as four times higher than London, according to ONS data.

Workplace injuries that cause back, neck, wrist pain and other common injuries are often all it takes for a patient to be prescribed powerful opioid medication.

According to Nicki Hari, a drug counsellor for UK Addiction Treatment, many doctors prescribe medications such as tramadol “without asking too many questions.” Hari claims that the loose prescription habits are “creating drug addicts” and worsening the problem of drug addiction.

Hari has extensive personal experience with opioid painkiller. As a 25 year old, she became addicted to prescription medicine and “manipulated” doctors into prescribing her the drugs to maintain her addiction, often requesting unnecessary surgery to be prescribed medication.

Her claims of overprescription have, to some extent, been supported by professionals in the medical industry.

Professor Jonathan Chick, of rehabilitation clinic Castle Craig Hospital, claims that the total number of people seeking treatment for drug addiction has roughly doubled in the last five years, and that there’s “definitely a link” between rising prescriptions and addiction levels.

Doctors have also acknowledged the scale of the problem. Dr Luke Mordecai of University College London Hospitals notes that opioid painkiller addiction often affects areas with low incomes more than prosperous areas.

Mordecai noted that doctors often face significant pressure from patients to prescribe certain drugs, noting that “patients demand they get given these strong painkillers” by their doctors.

The government has also taken notice. In January, a review into the level of prescriptions for opioid painkillers was launched by Public Health England. The report is due to be released in early 2019 and could prompt a review of policy towards drug prescription and addiction.

In the meantime, prescription painkiller abuse remains one of the biggest health issues in the UK. From 2016 to 2017, an estimated 2.3 million people aged 16 to 59 used prescription pain medication without a prescription, according to a survey by the BBC England data unit.

While many users of prescription pain medication cease using the medicine when required, a large percentage struggle with dependence and addiction. When prescriptions end, users are often drawn towards the black market, where more dangerous illicit drugs can be purchased.

US Opioid Addiction Epidemic “Costs $500 Billion Per Year”

The American opioid epidemic, which President Trump declared a public emergency last year, costs the United States more than $500 billion per year, according to data released by the The Council of Economic Advisers.

The agency, which is part of the Executive Office of the President, believes that $504 billion is lost through a combination of factors related to opioid abuse, ranging from overdose deaths to health care bills, lost productivity and spending on law enforcement and criminal justice.

An estimated 50,000 Americans died due to drug overdoses in 2015, the most recent year for which complete data is available. More than 60% of these deaths involved opioids, making the class of medication that most deadly in the country.

Opioid addiction has developed from a minor problem into a major crisis over the past decade, with overdose deaths, emergency room visits and other negative events increasing at a rapid pace.

In 2017, more than 45,000 people in the United States received emergency room treatment for opioid-related health problems. An estimated two million American adults are considered opioid dependent, according to the current addiction criteria.

The rate of opioid-related deaths is more than four times as high as in 1999, less than 20 years ago.

Opioid addiction affects a diverse range of people throughout the United States. However, the addiction crisis has hit certain areas harder than others, with industrial areas the most likely to be affected.

Addiction rates are highest in states such as Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky and Pennsylvania — states with large amounts of heavy industry and higher rates of workplace injuries than coastal regions.

Many people dealing with opioid addiction are prescribed opioid painkillers due to a workplace injury or surgery. Prescription painkillers such as Vicodin and Oxycontin are widely prescribed, often for injuries that can potentially be treated using less addictive alternative medications.

Data shows that many people become addicted to opioids after being prescribed the drugs at a therapeutic dose following surgery or recurring pain. Others switch from prescription opioids to street drugs such as heroin and fentanyl due to their lower cost and widespread availability.

In the case of fentanyl, efforts by addicts to save money can be deadly. The drug, which is a synthetic opiate painkiller designed for use in combination with other drugs as an anesthetic, delivers an effect that’s more than 50 times as powerful as morphine.

Black market opioid dealers often falsely sell fentanyl as heroin or morphine in an effort to cut costs and generate more profit from illegal drug sales. Even a slight overdose of the drug can result in death, making this practice extremely hazardous and harmful.

Fentanyl is also often disguised as prescription medications such as oxycodone. Recently, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced that three men had been arrested in California for selling the illicit and dangerous painkiller in the form of counterfeit oxycodone tablets.

It’s a widespread problem, and one with no clear end in sight. Despite massive efforts by law enforcement, government and private addiction centres, the opioid crisis remains a massive, increasingly significant problem for millions of people across North America.