Amphetamine and the Workplace

Recent reports revealed Victoria as the amphetamine capital of Australia with nearly 400% increase in confiscated drugs[1]. The alarming figures show no sign of slowing down as arrests for amphetamine-related crimes rose to 11,000 in the past year. Likewise, amphetamine-related treatment cases also saw a sharp incline. To be prepared for this, employers should know what is amphetamine, what its effects are, and the treatments available for users and abusers.

Also known on the streets as ice, amphetamine accounted for almost 40% of drug related arrests in 2016. The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission further reported that amphetamine also accounted for 56.1% or 4,900 kilograms of the total weight of drugs seized in Victoria[1].

The figures are alarming especially as it showed that more people are using and abusing drugs not only on the streets or out of unemployment. Another report revealed that people are also using the drug in the workplace[2]. An increasing number of employees in high-stress environments find the need to stay awake for longer hours and thus turn to amphetamine for rescue.

what is amphetamine, amphetamine and the workplace

What is Amphetamine?

Amphetamines are potent nervous system stimulant drugs that speed up the brain’s activity. It generally appears in powder form and can be made into tablets. The user’s heart and breathing rates increase and they may experience increased energy, alertness and confidence. Appetite may be suppressed and users may become chatty and excited[3].

Interestingly, long before the drug received its negative connotation, the healthcare industry prescribed amphetamine to people with various conditions. One of these conditions is narcolepsy, a medical condition where people randomly fall asleep thereby needing the medicine to stay alert. Soldiers and pilots reportedly also took amphetamines to stay awake for long hours while on duty[4].

After the Second World War, civilian use of amphetamine increased and became widespread. A new form of the drug — methamphetamine — soon developed and quickly hit the market. As the drugs reached more people, its negative effects and addictive properties became more evident.

Currently, the medical industry still prescribes amphetamine in conjunction with other medicines for depression and to reverse symptoms of ADHD.

 

Amphetamine and the Workplace

Stimulants are popular in the workplace — this is why many people go to work with coffee in their hands. The intention is to be alert and active. However, it’s a totally different story when people start to use and abuse illicit drugs to endure the competitive workload.

In 2013, Crime Stoppers reported that 2.3% of the workforce used amphetamine[3]. The wholesale industry emerged as the workplace with the highest usage rate. This is followed by construction, hospitality, manufacturing, mining, and administrative services.

The University of New South Wales’s Senior Lecturer Jason Mazanov reported that workplace culture was a source of drug abuse[5]. This is especially prevalent in demanding and high-pressure environments such as advertising, law firms, and financial markets that often drive employees to work more late nights. Some employees may turn to stimulants such as amphetamines to be able to spend excessive hours in the office to match work demands.

Although using amphetamines help to keep the user awake, it can impair a user and may have serious repercussions in the workplace. Amphetamine users may experience days up to a week of sleeplessness. They could appear to be fully functional and normal at work, but may suddenly collapse from exhaustion. A study on deaths involving methamphetamines reported that abusers may also experience malnourishment, depression, and hallucinations. Amphetamine abusers may also suffer longer periods of impairment compared to those using marijuana and cocaine[6]. Amphetamine users may not only be inefficient and frequently absent from work, but they also pose a danger to the workplace and other employees.

 

Prevention

Employers have a duty and obligation to ensure workplace safety; Identifying and preventing potential workplace safety risks is the first step to ensuring this.

To identify an employee who might be using amphetamines, it’s important to know what is amphetamine, its symptoms[4] and its effects to make it easier to spot:

  • Hostility and aggressiveness
  • Paranoia
  • Reduction of social inhibitions
  • Malnutrition
  • Skin disorders
  • Altered sexual behaviour
  • Hallucinations
  • Unrealistic ideas of personal ability and power
  • Blurred vision
  • Chest pain
  • Convulsions
  • Cardiovascular system failure
  • Irregular heart beat
  • Nausea

In saying that, knowing what is amphetamine and its symptoms are not enough to identify a user in the workplace. If an employee is suspected of being influenced by amphetamines or other drugs, the more reliable method of confirming this is through a drug test. Implementing random drug testing may be useful to identify employees using drugs in the workplace.

While a controversial topic, drug testing in the workplace is important to maintain workplace safety and minimise potential risks. The alarming figures on drug usage calls for more employers to introduce drug testing policies to promote a safe and healthy work environment.

Additionally, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime encourage wellness and substance abuse education as an effective tool for prevention. Employers need to take the lead in providing information to employees on the following:

  1. factual information on the harmful effects of drug abuse to individuals
  2. potential risks and hazards to the workplace
  3. disciplinary measures when found guilty of using illicit drugs per company definition

Furthermore, employers should communicate effectively with employees to build trust and understanding on the importance of workplace safety and health. Supervisors may also be able to encourage identified users to seek treatment in full confidentiality. In the case of General Motors, for example, their information campaign on alcohol and the workplace resulted in 42% of their workforce’s at-risk drinkers reducing their alcohol intake to safer levels[7].

 

Knowing what is amphetamine, its effects and ways to prevent it are just some steps that employers can take to ensure a safe workplace. Other drugs such as cocaine and marijuana affect the workplace as well. Therefore, employers need to be vigilant and prepared to identify these and other drugs and substances that affect workplace safety. By implementing a workplace alcohol and drug policy combined with education and rehabilitation, employers can ensure that all employees understand the risks and consequences involved with drug abuse in the workplace.

 

References

1: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4651484/Victoria-Australia-s-ice-amphetamine-capital.html
2: https://www.crimestopperswa.com.au/crime-types/drugs/facts-and-figures/
3: http://www.emcdda.europa.eu/publications/drug-profiles/amphetamine
4: http://www.narconon.org/drug-abuse/amphetamine-signs-symptoms.html
5: http://www.smh.com.au/business/workplace-relations/temptation-grows-to-use-drugs-to-stay-awake-in-the-workplace-20160523-gp1ff9.html
6: http://www.dasa.net.au/newsletter/24-facts-about-ice-in-the-workplace
7: https://www.unodc.org/documents/drug-prevention-and-treatment/PreventionStandards/meeting2012_01/-_hersch_workplace.pdf

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