Hospitality workers most likely to abuse prescription drugs: study

19 October, 2015 by
Danielle Bowling

Members of the hospitality industry are more likely than workers in any other sector to abuse prescription and over-the-counter medications, a study from Curtin University has revealed.

According to the ABC, Curtin University’s Mark Harris said 3.7 percent of the study’s respondents said they’d used a pharmaceutical drug for non-medical reasons.

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"The key finding was that workers in hospitality were more likely to misuse pharmaceutical drugs," he said.

"We also found blue collar workers, so your labourers and construction workers et cetera, were much more likely to misuse these drugs than white collar workers."

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The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare conducts a national survey every three years to assess the prevalence of alcohol, tobacco and drug use in the community. Curtin University researchers collated results from the last decade, focusing on 70,000 working Australians between the ages of 20 and 65.

Harris said that because the data is self-reported, the true drug abuse statistics could be higher. Addiction medicine specialist Phillip Crowley agrees.

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"I think it's really under-reported, under-estimated and under-treated," he said.

"Prescription and over-the-counter drug use is really replacing illicit drugs in many ways.

"It may be that [hospitality workers] are more likely to admit to it because they don't think they're at risk of a regulatory response."

The study, which suggested the introduction of workplace testing, also found jobs with higher responsibility and authority were inversely associated with misusing pharmaceutical drugs.

Illegal drugs are also abused in hospitality, with recent data from the National Drug Strategy Household Survey revealing that trade workers and employees in the industry are the highest users of ice (methamphetamine) in the Australian workforce. The data revealed that 2.3 percent of the workforce had used the drug at least once in the last 12 months, equating to around 230,000 people.

Just last week a former bar supervisor of the Imperial Hotel Erskineville was banned from working in any licensed venue in NSW for six months after allegedly consuming and supplying illicit drugs while on shift.

On 14 June 2015, OLGR inspectors observed the bar supervisor remove two ecstasy capsules from a bottle. The supervisor gave one to the bar attendant before both men consumed the drugs at the bar in front of patrons. After consuming the capsules, the bar attendant continued to serve alcohol to patrons. The supervisor also poured shots of alcohol which he and the bar attendant consumed in front of patrons.