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Drug Misuse At Work


This has been developed by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the Home Office, the Department of Health, the Scottish Executive, the Health Education Board for Scotland, the National Assembly for Wales, the Health and Safety Executive Northern Ireland and other organisations. It will help owners and managers of businesses and other organisations, particularly small and mediumsized enterprises, deal with drug-related problems at work.

It provides a basic understanding of the signs, effects and risks of drug misuse. It also sets out a best practice approach to dealing with drug-related problems at work.


In this booklet, ‘drug misuse’ refers to the use of illegal drugs and the misuse, whether deliberate or unintentional, of prescribed drugs and substances such as solvents. Drug misuse can harm the misuser both physically and mentally and, through the misuser’s actions, other people and the environment. Historically, society regards alcohol, tobacco and caffeine differently from other drugs and the problems associated with their use are well documented. They are therefore not considered further in this booklet. However, remember that simultaneous use of alcohol and drugs is particularly dangerous. The joint HSE/Department of Health booklet Don’t mix it: A guide for employers on alcohol at work (Leaflet INDG240 HSE Books 1996 (single copy free or priced packs of 10 ISBN 0 7176 1291 0)) offers separate guidance. The Health Education Board for Scotland’s guide Alcohol in the workplace: A simple guide (Health Education Board for Scotland 2001) is available to employers in Scotland.


Yes. Drug misuse can be a serious problem not only for the misuser but also for the business where they work and, sometimes, for their co-workers. The possession of some drugs is illegal, exposing the misuser to the risk of criminal charges as well as causing harmful effects to their health. You could be breaking the law if you knowingly allow drug-related activities in your workplace and you fail to act. It is just as important to know the implications to both your employees and business of not tackling drug misuse, particularly where safety is involved.

Successfully tackling drug misuse can benefit both your business and your employees. For example  y:

  • saving on the cost of recruiting and training new employees to replace those whose employment might be terminated because of untreated drug misuse;
  • reducing the cost of absenteeism or impaired productivity;
  • creating a more productive environment by offering support to those employees who declare a drug-related problem, improving employee morale;
  • reducing the risk of accidents caused by impaired judgement;
  • enhancing the public perception of your organisation as a responsible employer;
  • contributing to society’s efforts to combat drug misuse.


All kinds of people are involved in drug misuse - they do not conform to any stereotype. A lot of people who are involved in drug misuse are in work.


If you are going to tackle drug misuse at work effectively, you may want to start by examining your own knowledge about the types of drugs available and the harmful effects they can have on the misuser and your business. So your first task will probably be to gather information to raise your awareness and that of your managers or supervisors. This booklet can be a starting point but you may also want to approach some of the organisations listed at the end for useful reading material, educational videos and other information. Drugs can affect the brain and the body in a number of ways. They can alter the way a person thinks, perceives and feels, and this can lead to either impaired judgement or concentration. Drug misuse can also bring about the neglect of general health and well-being. This may adversely influence performance at work, even when the misuse takes place outside the workplace.



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