Drug addiction is a sad affliction, and unfortunately Australia’s workforce members are falling prey in growing numbers. Complicating the issue is the fact there are various types of drug addictions and varying degrees of addiction. Society does not judge the binge drinker in the same way it assesses the heroin addict. Yet many of the impacts are the same. An alcoholic and a heroin addict may show up for work but both present safety hazards. A chronic drinker and a chronic meth user are not going to be productive over the long-term compared to a substance free worker. The various types of addictions are equally problematic which is precisely why random substance abuse programs test for both.

Addiction is Addiction is Addiction

What are the types of addictions? Addiction is not limited to alcohol and drugs. Any type of addiction can become a problem for an employer, but only drugs and alcohol can be tested. For example, a worker may be addicted to gambling which eventually leads to the person committing theft. However, there is no test for gambling. The addiction with a physical component is the sickness that can be kept out of the workplace by using a random drug and alcohol testing program coupled with an education component.

The different types of substance addictions include the following:1

  • Benzodiazepines
  • Heroin
  • Cocaine
  • Amphetamines and methamphetamines
  • Cannabis
  • Ecstasy
  • LSD
  • Tobacco

Even that list is not complete. Employers need to be aware of the fact that employees can be addicted to:2

  • Methadone
  • Oxycodone
  • Inhalants
  • Pharmaceutical stimulants

Any type of addiction can cause problems in the workplace. Smokers who need nicotine can get jittery, short-tempered and anxious. They may have productivity problems while waiting for the next opportunity to smoke a cigarette. Eating disorders can also cause anxiety and distract a worker from job duties. The difference between a tobacco addiction and an illicit drug addiction is that drugs like cocaine affect brain functioning, thus presenting a safety hazard to the person and the co-workers.

Dependence of Any Kind is a Workplace Issue

One of the reasons employers address all the possible addictions, including tobacco,  in employee education programs is that any dependence is of concern. Drug and alcohol testing operates on two basic assumptions. First, any substance use in the workplace creates a safety issue for the worker and co-workers. Second, occasional substance use can turn into a habit which can turn into an addiction.

The difference between a habit and an addictions is a matter of control. A habit is thoughtless or rote behaviour but there is no long-term physical dependency that cannot be overcome simply by changing thoughts and behaviours. An addiction represents a physical dependence that drives a person to act in a certain way. Addicts do not believe they have control over their actions and view satisfying the substance craving as a solution to problem. The real problem is the very fact the body craves the substance and there is likely a physiological change that has taken place which creates the permanent craving. A habit is controllable. An addiction is often not controllable because of the physical craving coupled with the psychological dependence.

Employers have many addiction issues to deal with today but they must be careful to adhere to the law and protect employee privacy. However, it is important to recognize that workers may be dealing with complex issues that impact work.

Employers rely on drug and alcohol testing that does not differentiate between dependency and habit. A worker who tests positive for any type of illicit substance or alcohol is considered a safety threat. CMM Technology provides high quality testing supplies to ensure the tests return accurate results.


1. Inspire Foundation. (n.d.). The Facts About Drug Addiction. Retrieved from ReachOut.com: http://au.reachout.com/The-facts-about-drug-addiction

2. Jennifer Stafford, Natasha Sindicich, Lucy Burns, et. al. (2009). Findings From the Illicit Drug Reporting System (IRDS) - Australian Drug Trends Series No. 19. Retrieved from National Drug& Alcohol Research Centre - Australia: http://ndarc.med.unsw.edu.au/sites/default/files/ndarc/resources/IDRSDTS2008.pdf