Dopes on Dope on the Farm

With the number of reports of farm workers using and working, daily while using drugs Queensland Farmers Federation is stepping up its warnings.

farm workAccording to research by the National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction (NCETA), there is growing evidence of ice being used by younger males aged 18 to 30 years who are employed on farms in varying roles and as tradespersons or technicians.

QFF says there’s a growing number of Queensland farmers reporting drug use among workers on the rise and they have outlined advice for owners and managers.

NCETA research has identified that, compared to other employees, those using methamphetamine are more likely to:

• report high levels of psychological distress
• be absent from work
• attend work under the influence of drugs
• drive or operate hazardous machinery while affected, or
• verbally or physically abuse someone while affected.

Ice can take a toll on a person’s ability to function mentally and physically, and can result in illness, injury or early death.

Signs a worker may be using include extreme tiredness, unexplained irritability, agitation or mood swings, hallucinations, poor work performance, and health problems such as poor appetite, palpitations, infected injection sites or lesions.

Longer-term problems with anxiety and depression may also develop including paranoia with some users becoming prone to aggression and violence.

Workplace strategies to address methamphetamine risks to safety and wellbeing include:

    • Supervisor/manager training: It is important that supervisors and managers are aware that symptoms such as negative mood states, cognitive dysfunction, and fatigue can be associated with methamphetamine use.
    • Employee awareness: Workplace education and training programs need to highlight the potential link between methamphetamine use and poor physical and mental health as well as the overall harms associated with drug use such as needle stick injury and infection control.
    • Health promotion: Workplace health promotion programs can serve as a ‘trigger’ for discussions with employees about the ways in which drug use can impact their health and work performance.
    • Employer Assistance Programs (EAPs): Counselling services and EAPs are important to minimize risky behaviours such as polydrug use and alcohol use which are more prevalent among employed methamphetamine users than other workers.
    • Related workplace policies: NCETA research has identified an association between methamphetamine use and verbal and physical abuse in the workplace. This indicates that workplace bullying policies may also be required.

If you are concerned about drug use in your workplace, call the Alcohol and Drug Information Service (ADIS) on 1800 177 833.

It is an anonymous and confidential service.