04:24pm Tuesday 22 October 2019

Results from pilot study – Substance abuse in the Norwegian workplace

Illustration photo. Copyright: colourbox.com About 6% of the participants had been absent from work once or more in the previous year because of alcohol use, and approximately 24 % had been inefficient or experienced hangover at work due to alcohol. The study also revealed the use of psychoactive medicines among 5% of the participants, and use of illegal drugs among 1.7%.

A total of 526 people participated in the study, which included four companies and a number of professional drivers. Participation was voluntary and anonymous. Participants filled in a short questionnaire, and gave a saliva sample to test for recent use of alcohol, illegal drugs or psychoactive medicines, which may cause drowsiness.

Hangover is the most common substance abuse problem

Alcohol was not found in any of the saliva samples, but a large proportion reported alcohol intake the day before. Very few of these reported a high alcohol intake. Approximately 6 % reported that they had been absent from work due to alcohol use once or more during the past 12 months and approximately 24% reported inefficiency or hangover at work due to alcohol during the same period.

Overall, the use of psychoactive medicines was found among 5.1% of the participants, and the majority of the users admitted it through the questionnaires. In all cases where only medicines were found, salivary concentrations complied with normal therapeutic usage. A combination of illegal drugs and medicines was discovered in two cases.

Under-reporting the use of illegal drugs

With regards to the use of illegal drugs, under-reporting was large. Illegal drugs use was revealed by the questionnaire or analysis of saliva from 1.7% of the participants, while only 0.4% admitted use in the questionnaire. One cannot draw conclusions about drug impairment based on salivary sample analysis, but one can say whether the impairment is probable. It is likely that 3-5 people were under the influence of illegal drugs when the sample was taken, i.e. while they were at work. This amounts to between 0.5 and 1% of the participants.

Results from the survey are published in Rus & Samfunn (Norwegian only) and in the Journal of Occupational Health and Toxicology:

  • Bruk av rusmidler i arbeidslivet – Resultater fra en pilotstudie (Rus & Samfunn) (Use of drugs in the workplace – Results from a pilot study). Available online at: http://www.rus.no/id/463.0
  • Use of alcohol and drugs by Norwegian employees: a pilot study using questionnaires and analysis of oral fluid (Journal of Occupational Health and Toxicology). Available online at: http://www.occup-med.com/content/5/1/13

This pilot study will be followed up by a larger study, which is under plan.

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