Those in the hospitality industry, as well as tradies, are among the biggest users of the drug ice in the Australia workforce, ongoing analysis of national drug data has revealed.
While unemployed people in percentage terms are more likely to use the drug ice than those with jobs, there are many more users in the workplace.
Flinders University drug and alcohol expert Dr Ken Pidd, part of a methamphetamine symposium held in Melbourne earlier in the year, analysed data from the National Drug Strategy Household Survey and said blue-collar workers are the main industry and occupational groups with higher prevalence levels.
“More than 2 per cent of the workforce have used methamphetamine at least once in the past 12 months, and that equates to about 230,000 people,” he said.
By the time this magazine has gone to print, The National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC) will have released its annual research symposium, Emerging problems in drug and alcohol use: current problems and future solutions. Drawing on the findings of landmark national studies, the report will translate the results for clinicians and policy makers, including early intervention and treatment options.
According to Dr Pidd, overlooking the use of drugs in the workforce would be a huge mistake for the country.
“I would argue the workplace is an ideal intervention setting due to those large numbers of drug users that are employed,” he said, but warned any attempt to address ice use in the workplace must go beyond drug testing and focus on early intervention.
“Introducing drug testing as a standalone strategy was probably the worst way to go,” he said.
“Instead of changing behaviour to reduce any risk due to drug use, it can change behaviour to avoid detection, without reducing the risk to drug use.”
The symposium was organised by the National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction at Flinders University. Its director, Professor Ann Roche, warned a national strategy that focused just on one drug – such as ice – could miss the mark.
“Methamphetamine needs to be seen in conjunction with the range of other substances that people are using,” she told ABC News.
“People who use methamphetamine pretty much always use other drugs as well.
“So it’s not simply a focus on methamphetamine that’s required, it’s a focus on people who have problems and problems with drugs.”