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Today’s Social Drinking University Students Are Tomorrow’s Workplace Alcoholics

By Expert Author: Murray Simon

Managing a business requires intense focus on operations, Human Resources, and a myriad of goals, systems, projects, processes, and programs. One of the programs is the AOD program. For many companies, keeping drugs and alcohol out of the business is literally a full-time job in the sense that someone has a full-time responsibility for managing the alcohol and other drug testing program. However, employers are increasingly viewed as the points of contact for educating people on the inherent dangers of substance abuse. Governments and nonprofits now go even further and ask employers to participate in community and public programs, especially addressing alcohol abuse and its consequences. The reality is that alcoholism begins early in Australian life as children as young as 14 years old take their first drink and continue the practice as university students who binge drink. Employers should always keep in mind that the young social drinkers of today are tomorrow’s workplace alcoholics.

Employers have a vested interest in what is happening in Australian society. Alcoholics and binge drinkers do not suddenly become alcoholics and binge drinkers once employed. There is a good chance that many of them attended “schoolies” and “leavers”. These celebrations to mark the end of secondary school education frequently turn into secret binge drinking and drug taking opportunities. They are not intended to be that way, but teens who do not understand the potential harms are more likely to participate in the non-sanctioned activities.

Schoolies and Employers

There are good reasons for employers to care about “schoolies”. For example, teenagers who consume alcohol whilst the brain is still developing are more likely to experience brain damage and health complications in life when older. They are also more likely to have problems with alcohol in the future.1 Employers must deal with the consequences because these are the people making up the workforce.

The young adults attending universities are more at risk of continuing their teenage drinking patterns. La Trobe University addresses student drinking head-on. The university’s research and surveys indicated that only 46 percent of their students who consumed five or more alcoholic drinks averaged marks of credit or higher. However, 67 percent who drank less than three alcoholic drinks each week averaged marks of credit or higher.2

One of the interesting results of the La Trobe surveys is that 86 percent of students believed alcohol “breaks the ice”. Approximately 82 percent thought drinking was a social activity enhancer. The reality is that many of the students drinking more than five or more drinks did something regrettable at a later point. The “regrettables” were things like performing poorly on school work assignments or missing classes.

Drinking at Work for Social “Coolness”

However, it is easy to take the wrong student perceptions and translate them into the workplace. People who think drinking enhances social communication are more likely to turn to alcohol as an ice-breaker in the workplace or to prove social “coolness.” When employers allow alcohol at work events like picnics, award ceremonies, and holiday parties, they are sending a message that it takes alcohol to interact with others and to have a good time.

It is not just alcohol that is a problem, and the substance abuse issues are not limited to Australian students. There have been European and American studies conducted by researchers at the Basel and Zurich universities involving Swiss students. The results were alarming. Almost 14 percent of students were relying on some kind of neuroenhancement substance to improve their school performance.3 If they think drugs and alcohol will enhance school performance, why would they not think the same substances would enhance work performance?

Employers do need to care about what is going on in the community and the habits of the members of the future workplace. Developing increased awareness is one strategy in the effort to maintain a zero tolerance workplace and supplements other activities like onsite drug testing and breathalyser testing for alcohol. CMM Technology can help by offering expert policy development assistance, accurate drug testing technologies, and a host of breathalyser devices and NATA equipment calibration checks.

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