Workplace drug testing – is someone in your office in love with drugs?




With, on average, 3-5% of the United Kingdom’s workplace testing positive for illegal drugs, we can see that it is likely many organisations that some people are in love with drugs.

There are many factors that will determine the nature of drug use of any individual, so let’s explore…



According to an NHS report, in the UK there are approximately:

  • 5 million non-drinkers
  • 40 million social drinkers
  • 10 million “at risk” drinkers
  • 1 million problem drinkers
  • 200,000 dependent drinkers

So, that is a whopping two thirds of the UK population that use a drug! And hold on a minute, with approximately 19% of people in the UK being under 18 years old (source) the it would appear alcohol use is enormous in the UK.

Everything from a cheeky glass of wine with dinner, through to binge drinking on the weekends, and individuals are dependent in order to function. Leaving the potential long term effects on health aside, how does this affect people’s performance in the workplace?

In its most basic level, when people turn up to work with a hangover, it probably is not the best of states to be working in an office; but when people are operating machinery, it can be dangerous.

In the latter case, if they are still under the influence it is something that is dangerous; and if they have drunk on the day, or have a workplace habit then this is something more serious.

As such, alcohol is one of the most commonly abused drugs that will affect people in the workplace. The culture in which people operate, however, will determine whether there is any tolerance at all and whether a ‘quick drink at lunchtime’ will lead people on the path to dismissal.

Then we have all of the other drugs, from heroin to cocaine, to amphetamines (including ecstasy) to marijuana and so on. The question of whether a workplace tolerates any drug use will probably return to that ‘safety’ criteria i.e. does a person partaking in usage of an illicit substance cause a risk for other people (or themselves) whilst in the workplace?

If the answer is ‘yes’ then action is most likely to be taken. But what about a recreational user of something illegal? Some workplaces will be tolerant and turn a blind eye to the occasional smoking of a marijuana joint, but they may well come down hard if a) it is done in a lunch hour – “I mean, why don’t you just have a drink like everyone else!”, or b) if it is starting to cause emotional, relational or even financial pressures that affect workplace performance and team dynamics. This could be especially true for the usage of cocaine or amphetamines that can lead to increased negative emotions and life challenges when a person becomes dependent.

All in all, we have an attitude that it is ‘better to know’ if there is a problem. By having things out in the open, there is the opportunity to discuss any issues in a way that is compassionate to the individuals. This is what workplace drug testing is all about.

We are all human after all and with the right support, even the most challenging circumstances can be improved.

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