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250,000 SA workers on drugs at work

NEARLY one in five South Australian employees is using illegal drugs, a new study has found.

AdelaideNow, August 6, 2006


The extent of illegal drug use by workers has been revealed in a study by the National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction at Flinders University.

The research, which is yet to be published, found 17 per cent of all Australian employees were illegal drug users, with more than 250,000 taking drugs while at work.

Across all industries, cannabis was the drug of choice, followed by amphetamines, ecstasy, painkillers and cocaine.

The study was based on the 2004 National Drug Strategy Household Survey of 30,000 Australians.

It found hospitality workers were the heaviest users of illegal drugs, with 31 per cent admitting using drugs outside of work hours in the previous year.

Construction workers were the second heaviest users (24.1 per cent), followed by retail workers (20.7 per cent).

Those most likely to take illegal drugs while on the job were hospitality workers (7.7 per cent), followed by construction (4.2 per cent) and transport (3.2 per cent).

Drug users were most likely to be aged 18-29 (5.9 per cent) or 14-17 (4.5 per cent).

Australian National Council on Drugs chairman, Dr John Herron, said the results were "frightening and staggering".

"It is very bad for the Australian population that we have so many taking drugs as part of their daily routine," he said.

"It does not surprise me that these figures have been produced."

Dr Herron said employees who took drugs placed themselves and others at risk.

He said there needed to be a large-scale education program about the dangers of drugs.

Study co-author Dr Ken Pidd said that the true extent of the problem in workplaces may be worse than reported because some respondents may not have admitted to drug use.

"Because we haven't collected any information on this before, we don't really know if it's worse or not," Dr Pidd said.

"It was a self-reporting survey."