Reducing the intrusion of ?ice? in the workplace

Pick up any newspaper or watch the local news and it’s guaranteed there will be a news story about the drug commonly known as “ice” (technically called methamphetamines) sweeping our community and workplace. Yes, there are apparently plenty of other types of drugs available, and we have had them in our communities for a long time.

Some of the recent information presented on ice makes for sobering reading:

  • The purity of methamphetamines has jumped from 10 per cent to 80 per cent in five years.
  • Ice is getting cheaper.
  • Victoria Police recently seized 10 tonnes of chemicals that could have been used to manufacture 45 million street deals worth $3.6 billion.
  • The number of clandestine drug laboratories has increased by 95.2 per cent in the past 10 years.
  • A recent road blitz by Tasmanian police tested 57 suspected drivers, 32 whom came back positive.
  • The mining, resources, construction and trades sectors have a higher prevalence of ice use than other sectors of the community.
  • Approximately 2.3 per cent of the workforce has used ice at least once in the last 12 months, and that equates to about 230,000 people.
  • In 2013, 8.3 per cent of the population had been a victim of an illicit drug-related incident.
  • A recent poll found that 10 per cent of employees in Victoria had been absent or affected by drugs at work. The Australian Drug Foundation has assessed that drugs and alcohol cost Australian businesses $6 billion a year in lost productivity and absenteeism alone. Then there’s the serious health and safety risks in the workplace, particularly where employees operate machinery or drive vehicles.
  • At a central Hobart rehabilitation centre called Holyoake, chief executive Sarah Charlton reports a 47 per cent increase in methamphetamine use, sometimes unwittingly, and once it has quickly grabbed those persons, their lives spiral very, very quickly.
  • Melbourne City Mission reports a 27 per cent increase in critical incidents at its clinic with police and ambulance often having to be called for assistance. In an extreme case, a 14-year old girl caused $15,000 damage to heavy-duty plate glass after going on a rampage. The building had to be evacuated.

The Australian Drug Foundation reports that the outcomes of using ice are horrendous and there are no safe levels for its usage. Effects are felt for six hours after use and these include heightened feelings of pleasure and confidence, increasing energy, and repeated behaviours like itching and scratching. Coming down from ice highs is said to be painful as it is for any narcotic but the effects in the case of ice can differ and are more severe. The delusions associated with withdrawal include bizarre aggressive behaviour, with users getting hooked into an ice psychosis that leads to dependence.

I don’t have a solution to the problem, and no doubt another drug will soon come into our community that will take over from ice.

What can we do in our workplace? It’s about understanding the problem, seeing the early signs and/or symptoms of someone not fit for work, then what to do if you identify a problem. The IQA does have a PDP that will help you develop the skills and awareness within your team to try to reduce the effects and manage the duty of care for employees and the employer. I hope we can reduce the effect this drug is having in our workplace, on our mates and in our community.

I think it’s ironic that we recently had a well-publicised fundraiser – Dry July – for not drinking alcohol in the month of July.

I hope we never have to do this for drugs.

On a lighter note, it’s pleasing to see the amount of IQA membership subscription renewals coming through. Membership invoices went out in June, and as of early July, 65 per cent had responded, with a number of members taking up the two-year option.

Until next time, stay safe!

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