cocaine and drug use in the workplace

Author: Fiona Smith

Ruth was forced to leave her high-paying job in the Sydney finance industry because she wanted to stop snorting coke. Her entire department was powered by “rocket fuel” and, by declaring to get her life back in order, she was effectively leaving the club

The 30-year-old approached SMART Recovery Australia, which offers an alternative to the Alcoholics Anonymous approach in helping people with substance abuse. “Her drug and alcohol use has escalated over the years,” says SMART Recovery National Program Coordinator Josette Freeman.

“She was scared to go back to work because of the environment she was going to go back into,” she says.

Drug use in the department she worked in was a 24-hour habit, with people heading off to the bathrooms during the day to get the buzz back. It would be nice to think that this sort of experience is highly unusual.

“I didn’t think it is unusual [in that kind of industry], not the way she was talking about it,” says Freeman.

She says addiction and substance abuse are a “huge” problem in business – and the stresses of the recent financial downturn, high pressure, increased workloads and lack of resources have taken their toll.

“There are a lot of workplaces where they don’t care too much about the workers if they are producing.”

Part of the problem is that organisations can reward the behaviours that rely on “rocket fuel”: high energy, speedy performance, long hours and snappy decisions.

At first, cocaine can be beneficial in decision-making, says Freeman, but as the habit starts to take hold and more drugs are required, people become irrational.

SMART’s approach differs from AA. People are encouraged to take responsibility for their own recovery rather than rely on the group network and sponsors to support them. Freeman says while AA treats addiction as a disease, SMART treats it as a “maladaptive behaviour” and uses cognitive behavioural therapy.

SMART, which has been in Australia for over 10 years (in the US for 22 years), has more than 140 recovery groups in this country, all run by trained facilitators. Search for your nearest meeting here. 

Around 1000 people access its help on a weekly basis.

SMART Recovery Australia is a non-profit organisation that does not receive ongoing Government support. We rely on the generosity of our supporters and income that we generate ourselves to continue our work. Your support will help us to address addictive behaviours in Australia and work towards our vision to make SMART Recovery accessible to all people living in Australia.

You can donate HERE.






This article first appeared in BRW Magazine, May 2013


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