In some jobs, particularly where safety is involved, such as the transport industry, any form of intoxication is a very serious matter and may be a criminal offence. But even if safety isn’t in question, drinking heavily or taking drugs while at work is not generally a good way to impress the boss. Most of the sought-after effects of alcohol and illegal drugs cause changes in behaviour that are inappropriate at work. Feeling intensely relaxed (cannabis) or euphoric (heroin, ecstasy) is not conducive to the meeting of deadlines, for example. Displaying uninhibited, very sociable behaviour (a consequence of many drugs, notably ecstasy and alcohol – though alcohol can also make people aggressive) – is likely to alienate or alarm colleagues who are fuelled only by caffeine. Unpredictable and clearly undesirable side-effects – for example, passing out at your desk or suffering a panic attack – are also a possibility.
Someone who drinks at lunchtime to help them cope with a stressful afternoon meeting may find that the alcohol escalates their anxiety. It will certainly impair judgement and reflexes – increasing the possibility of their saying something stupid and bumping into the furniture. Cocaine and amphetamines may help a user work long hours, but they can also increase anxiety and affect the quality of work.
Despite this, alcohol and drugs are so embedded in the culture of some organizations that bosses tolerate or even encourage substance misuse. According to Drug Scope, high-earning white-collar workers are most at risk from this sort of employer collusion: in a few companies, ‘If you have to stay up till 4am to get the job done, and cocaine helps you to do that, then the employer turns a blind eye.’
Different drugs involve different after-effects and recovery periods but getting over a heavy session can take days, during which time you may feel tired, agitated, anxious or depressed. Sleeping problems are also common. In the long term, users may experience difficulties in their relationships and will be more vulnerable to medical problems. These problems also affect productivity at work.
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