Alcohol & Other Drugs in the Australian Workplace

Historically Australia has a strong drinking culture that crosses over into the workplace.

The majority of people enjoy alcohol safely and responsibly. But for some, alcohol – and increasingly pharmaceutical and illegal drugs – becomes an everyday need. It is worth noting that Australians who use drugs or alcohol are more likely to be employed than unemployed.

The statistics illustrate the scale of the problem:

  • Approximately nine per cent of the Australian workforce has shown up for work under the effects of drugs and/or alcohol (Flinders University, 2006).


  • Around half of Australian workers consume alcohol at risky levels, while around 15 per cent of the workforce has used illicit drugs in the previous 12 months (AIHW, 2007). Alcohol and other drug use outside work hours can manifest at work, with their effects potentially present for several days after use.


  • The International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates that globally alcohol and drugs contribute to 20 to 25 per cent of workplace injuries and between 3 and 15 per cent of work-related fatalities. State and Territory workplace safety authorities have seen an increased instance of complaints relating to drugs and alcohol.


  • Thirty per cent of Australians report being negatively impacted by someone who is alcohol affected, and 15 per cent by someone who is affected by illicit drugs. (AIHW, 2007).


  • Illicit drug users are more likely to be absent from work due to illness and injury. In addition to general illness, each year more than 100,000 Australian workers will miss four or more days of work because of drug use (Flinders University, 2006).


  • In Australia the tangible loss of productivity through sickness and death attributable to illicit drug use is about $3.7 billion annually in Australia, with alcohol attributable to more than $12 billion in lost production each year.

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