The Reality of Employee Drug & Alcohol Abuse in the UK

As Drug Testing Kits UK regularly reports: substance use across the UK has continued to increase over the last 5 years, with Covid-19 and the after effects of the pandemic contributing to a significant spike in the figures from 2020 onwards.

"Drug use including everything from class C drugs like tranquillizers, to harder class A substances like heroin, cocaine and ecstasy, is still worryingly widespread across the UK. Further, a 2021 study showed that over half of UK drinkers (56%) admitted to reaching for alcohol to relax" [1]. Moreover, employers have to be mindful that the drinking culture in Britain is: "considered by many as a significant part of everyday life. Whether it's drinks to unwind, or trips to a local bar during a lunch break, for many, this laid back attitude towards drinking either regularly, or to excess, can often lead to problematic consequences in the workplace" [1]

Did You Know?

Workplace illicit drug use is tied to availability, and the fact of the matter is: the UK is experiencing a rise in border force and police seizure of illegal drugs which are either being brought into the country, or have already been transported into Britain. "In March 2022, 188,929 drug seizures were made in England and Wales; and in the same year, London was the region with the highest number of drug seizures (5,691)" [1]. And these statistics only show the illicit drugs which were seized. - So to that end, the quantity which get through to addicts, and those who are taking illegal drugs just to cope, must be staggering.

Drug Testing Kits UK Recommends Periodically Revising Workplace Protocols

Our Drug Testing Kits UK's advisors and Health Science consultant advocate that companies, organisations and institutions, keep abreast of optimum drug and alcohol testing policies in line with:

  • Changing legal requirements (according to UK or Republic of Ireland law)

  • The current (and periodic changing) wave of popular illegal and abused prescription drugs

  • Your company's/organisations specific needs (in terms of your industry, etc.), including whether pre-employment, back to work after an extended break, scheduled and unannounced and post-accident on-site drug testing, is sufficient to protect your company/organisation from members of staff who are either hiding an established drug/alcohol addiction or heavy habit, or who have recently succumb to self-abuse as a method of coping with personal issues, etc.

 Drug Testing Kits UK Aligns With the UK Health and Safety Executive

As the countless companies and organisations we serve across the length and breath of the UK, are aware from our up-to-date referenced blogs on drug and alcohol testing in the workplace:

"You have a general duty under the Health and Safety at Work etc., Act to ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of your employees. Employees must also take reasonable care of themselves and anyone who could be affected by their work" [2]. However, with regard to the latter, the fact is that thousands of employees are not concerned about taking "reasonable care." And this should concern employers. So many unfortunate scenarios from workers under the influence which have lead to companies facing bankruptcy, a destroyed reputation, hundreds of thousands in legal costs, victim compensation and fines, and even criminal prosecution, could have been avoided if only the company's/organisation's drug and alcohol policy had incorporated the right workplace drug and alcohol testing protocol. - Something which the professional advisors at Drug Testing Kits UK, give our FREE Advice on. - And whether you are an existing client or a new one, remember that our highly trained friendly team are just a message or phone call away! 

Being in the Know

As an employer, it is crucial to keep up-to-date with the latest data on drug and alcohol misuse laws, such as the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and The Road Traffic Act 1988. Moreover, the Health and Safety Executive directs interested parties to the popular website Frank, which publishes useful information on drug and alcohol abuse and the law [2]. Of note, Drug Testing Kits UK also recommends Frank for companies and organisations who want to promote employee support. The HR department can simply give out the web address as a positive resource to help any staff who are battling substance abuse.

Health and Safety Executive Advice on Screening and Testing for Drugs/Alcohol

Smart companies and organisations have already taken on screening as part of their standard drug and alcohol policy. Sometimes this decision has been a result of serious accidents and potential accidents in the workplace, or when employees have been working for the company outside the work area (for example, driving). Both Drug Testing Kits UK, and the Health and Safety Executive recommend that:

"If you want to do the same, think carefully about what you want screening to achieve and what you will do with the information it gives you. There may be a case for screening, particularly in certain jobs (for example, employees who make safety-critical decisions like drivers and machinery operators). In jobs like these the misuse of drugs or alcohol could have disastrous effects for the employee, colleagues, general public and the environment" [2]

 It is important to be mindful that:

  • Screening should form part of a company's overall health and safety policy

  • Staff must consent to screening for legal and practical reasons

  • Screening should be conducted properly with high quality, accurate, UK-approved drug and alcohol testing kits [such as those provided by nationwide workplace drug & alcohol testing leader, Drug Testing Kits UK].

  • Staff cannot be forced to take an on-site alcohol or drug test, however, if they decline when an employer has reasonable grounds for testing, they could face disciplinary action [2]


[1]. Peston, M. (2023). "UK Drug Addiction Report 2023." Delemare.


[2]. Health & Safety Executive (2023). "Managing drug and alcohol misuse at work."