SUBSTANCE ABUSE POLICY FOR THE WORKPLACE SECTION 2
To make appropriate and professional decisions on drug-related matters it is necessary to have an understanding of the issues.
To address drugs issues appropriately, there needs to be a broad understanding of drugs and drug use and empathy for drug users. Great emphasis should be placed on education as being the process by which understanding can be achieved. This requires drugs education, for all staff, providing detailed and balanced information, and using learning processes which develop personal and social skills, including decision-making skills and development and clarification of attitudes.
To further this end the workplace should positively support, develop and implement strategies to:-.
promote healthy lifestyles
intervene when drugs are misused;
minimise harm and prevent the misuse of drugs;
educate and inform about drugs, drug use and drug misuse.
The appropriate strategy will need to reflect the context in which work is being undertaken with all staff.
Employers and employees need to be aware of, and clear about the policy, the aims of implementation strategies, and what can be realistically achieved. The main purpose for education is to ensure that full potential is achieved through planned and incidental learning opportunities. Any drug using behaviour which hinders the achievement of this aim should be dealt with by appropriate intervention strategies.
All workplaces should be clear about their values and moral framework. Staff when managing drug related incidents must work within the strategies outlined in the site policy. Decisions about actions should relate to the circumstances around specific incidents. Drugs education must be objective, providing balanced, factual information.
Drugs education should be an integrated aspect of a health education programme, emphasising the benefits of healthy lifestyles.
Drugs education provided throughout the workplace should begin when a potential employee is interviewed and selected for a post and continue through the period of employment. Drug education must consider values, attitudes and personal and social skills as well as knowledge.
Drugs education should enable all staff to make informed and responsible decisions about drugs in their lives and in society. The workplace in providing drugs education, supports the notion that any change in the law in relation to drugs should only take place through legal processes.
2.3 Drug Education
Each workplace must have clarified its aims for drug awareness and explored to what extent the aims are realistic and achievable.
Programmes must be designed and developed to achieve these aims. Each workplace should aim to provide a high quality programme. Features of good practice include:
All staff involvement in planning;
assessment of the needs of the learners;
differentiation of approach based on individual needs and abilities;
access to resources;
availability of staff development and support.
The main responsibility for providing drugs education in staff development programmes lies with the employers. This may need further training and support, and will need to be resourced appropriately.
Outside agencies can offer a vital support to the workplace through training, information giving and advice and in direct contact with workers when intervention and harm-minimisation strategies are being employed. Items which should be clearly stated in any site policy include:
who is providing the input;
who is receiving it;
Who in the staff is taking responsibility for the process and outcome;
2.4 Aims of Drug Education
The aims for drug education are:
to develop self esteem;
to provide accurate information about the legal status of drugs;
to develop and clarify understanding about the potential harm associated with drug use;
to examine the reasons for, and the consequences of, drug misuse;
to develop personal and social skills which enable adults to live healthy lifestyles;
to develop the decision making skills necessary in making informed choices;
to develop an understanding of how feelings, attitudes and values influence choices;
to develop knowledge and understanding about the effects of drugs on the body;
to develop communication skills and the confidence to use them to clarify opinions and knowledge about drugs and drug use;
to help people to live together within society by encouraging the qualities of empathy and tolerance as an integral part of an agreed moral framework;
to develop a harm minimisation approach by promoting respect for self and others.
2.5 Approaches to Drug Education
Drug education is a complex process. There are many approaches and staff should be aware of the approach that best suits their aims.
When providing drug education in any workplace it is important to remember that for any group there may be non-users, experimental users, social users, dependent users and, while less likely, chaotic users of any named drug.
Assessing the needs of the group is the first step in providing effective drug education. Education should develop the skills, values and attitudes of workers so that they are well equipped to make decisions that affect their lives and the lives of others, in relation to drugs.
Any information about specific substances needs to be set within a context.
Using shock-horror, didactic and high-profile approaches to drug education have been proven to be of little positive effect and, in some cases, stimulated interest in drug use. High profile inputs to large groups should be avoided.
Approaches that are recognised to be more appropriate for effective drug education encourage workers to be actively involved in their learning. For example, small group work, discussion, research, problem solving, and inter-active learning require workers to think, find out, have opinions, communicate with others and make decisions. The most appropriate educational context, therefore, is a skills based or situational approach.
Drug education should not ‘morally preach’ nor set challenges to any social sub-culture that chooses to use or not use drugs as a way of rejecting authority and authority figures.
Every worker should through educational opportunities develop the skills to assess potential harm;
an understanding of keeping safe and the skills to implement that understanding;
the strategies to take actions;
an understanding of emotions – a language to express them and their role in influencing how we feel about ourselves and the decisions we make;
the values that underpin a healthy society;
an understanding of drugs in society including the law, the effects, historical perspective, safe medical use, socio-economic factors and cultural influences.
Some workers may need some more detailed information about drugs and more help in achieving their potential and intervention and harm- minimisation strategies may have to be used. At this point support from community based services may be needed with direct input to workers.
If any outside agency is used by the workplace its name and function should be clearly stated in the site policy. When planning drug education, staff should decide which drug education approach or range of approaches best suit their circumstances. An understanding of four basic models of drugs education will help clarity the most suitable approach.
2.7 Educational Models
a) Traditional Or Medical Model
Main Principle – giving information and messages leads to change in behaviour. This model uses strategies in which staff are informed about drugs but the methodology does not focus on the staffs’ understanding or clarify values in relation to that understanding. In the main, information or messages are presented to the staff either through a “talk to”, written material or audio visual means, and does not focus on the context in which that information might be used or how decisions can be made in relation to that information.
Telling people not to take drugs is part of this approach. This approach has proved to be ineffective and in some cases to have stimulated interest or created a challenge to people.
b) Rational Model
Main Principle – Informed choice. This model focuses on people making informed choices. The methodologies used to provide information are designed to enable understanding through discussion and question and answer. The information provided is factual and may consider such things as risk, effect, legal status and factors that influence drug use. There is an emphasis on choice, and people are encouraged to consider the consequences of decision making.
c) Radical Model
Main Principle – improvement through change. This model emphasises the importance of development and change in society. It provides people with factual information but asks them to consider the quality of their lives, their working experience, their communities and society in relation to that information, and if they then believe that there can be a health gain or improvement they should make appropriate changes at the appropriate level.
While improvement is desirable this approach is very difficult to achieve and can create situations in which people find themselves in conflict with the values of their community. Improvement is a subjective term and one person’s improvement could be perceived as another person’s loss.
d) Empowerment Or Pastoral Model
Main Principle – personal value and high self-esteem leads to healthier lifestyle. This model focuses on the self-worth and self-esteem of each individual and emphasises the need for each person to feel good about themselves and about their environment. It suggests that people with a higher self-esteem and more internal locus of control are less likely to misuse drugs. This is difficult to prove, but it is quite clear that people with high self-esteem will also use drugs recreationally.
2.8 Levels of Drug Education
Different levels have been identified for drugs education, these are:
Each of these desired outcomes have their limitation and benefits but decisions about the most appropriate approach can only be set within the context of need of the person and the situation. The approaches employed by any workplace should be clearly stated in the site policy.
Staff and agencies working on behalf of the workplace must work within the policy. Senior staff implementing drug education programmes should be clear of their line-management support and where possible programmes of drug education should be written and form part of the written policy documentation.
2.8.1 Prevention is based on stopping people experimenting with and using drugs, either by stopping the supply or stopping the motivation. Both are virtually impossible to achieve.
2.8.2 Demand-education is based on the idea of reducing the misuse of drugs by:
providing information which highlights the consequences and harmful effects of drugs;
developing personal and social skills;
raising awareness of the cultural influences on drug use;
promoting alternatives to drug use and misuse.
2.8.3 Intervention accepts that some people will misuse drugs but strategies should be employed to stop this misuse before long- term dependency and other problems occur.
2.8.4 Harm-minimisation is based on the idea that if people are going to use drugs then the least harm to themselves and to society is desirable.
2.9 Planning or Reviewing Drug Education Programmes
When planning or reviewing a drug education programme, staff should consider how they are providing the main concepts of effective drug education. Taking a person-centred perspective can help to evaluate the appropriateness of the programme and to what extent the programme is actually helping people to live in a world where there are drugs.
2.9.1 Concepts and Questions
These main concepts and questions are:
How do I feel about myself?
Do I value me as I am?
What am I good at?
What do others value about me?
Personal and social skills
How well can I communicate with others?
Can I make and keep the relationships I want?
Can I resist the relationships I don’t want?
Can I be assertive?
Can I identify ways of keeping safe and can I use them?
Can I manage pressure?
How does it work?
How do I keep it healthy?
What do drugs do to my body?
How could drugs harm my body?
What feelings do I have?
How do I communicate my feelings?
How does how I feel affect my health?
Why do people take drugs when they don’t need them?
When is it OK to take drugs?
When is it not OK to take drugs?
What influences my decision-making?
What kind of society would I like to live in?
Information about drugs
What do I know about the effects, risks and legal status of drugs?
How does what I know about drugs affect what I do?
Who uses drugs appropriately?
Who is responsibly for me?
Who am I responsible for?
Am I responsible for my own actions?
Am I responsible for looking after me, my workplace, my colleagues, my family, my friends, my home, my community etc.?
What are the options to me?
What are the goals for my everyday working life?
How do I achieve my goals in my everyday home life?
Who helps me?
Who hinders me?
2.10 External Agencies
While the main responsibility for providing drugs education and managing drug related issues lies with the senior staff, community-based agencies and specialists can be a valuable source of support. In the main, these community agencies should provide:
accurate and relevant information;
contact points for referral;
training for relevant staff;
specialist intervention and harm-minimisation strategies;
2.11 Outside Speakers
Some establishments may consider using visiting speakers to provide their drugs education. However, there should be no question of senior staff abdicating their responsibility for drug education by simply arranging an outside speaker or screening a video.
Where such arrangements are made, they must be properly planned into an overall programme. Their contribution should complement other teaching and the content and methodologies used should match the needs of the workforce. Senior staff should always be involved so that they are able to deal with any follow up questions or concerns.
There could be occasions when former drug users may be invited to speak to staff. Such speakers can have a dramatic impact in describing their personal experiences of the damage drugs can do. However, this approach can glamorise drug misuse and actually encourage experimentation.
Any visitor working within the drugs education programme must abide by the drug policy and therefore be aware of its aims and content.
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