There is no doubt there is a massive drug crisis worldwide, especially now that synthetic opioids such as fentanyl are flooding the market in many regions worldwide. How this is affecting the mining industry in Australia is no secret, as drug use in the mining industry has been in the spotlight for some time now, and it seems that the industry is facing the same challenges as many other communities in terms of dealing with drug and alcohol use.
In 2015 The Australian Industry Group reported that the usage of the recreational drug methamphetamine was as high as 38 percent amongst their workers. These are staggering figures, and these are just the figures for those using methamphetamine, otherwise known as ice, or crystal meth.
The mining industry is well aware of the drug problem and how the abuse of drugs on the job can be extremely dangerous, and have taken this obvious threat extremely seriously. For this reason mining companies routinely drug and alcohol test their employees. This is however not an easy task as those involved in this elicit trade have become craftier and more cunning, and there are many designer drugs being abused that are difficult to detect in standard drug tests, as the chemical makeup is constantly changing. The frightening reality is that this multi billion dollar illegal drug industry is evolving faster than the technologies that can detect them are. This makes it really difficult to ensure that those working on mines are not abusing drugs.
Mining in now one of the most heavily tested industries for drugs and alcohol in Australia. Some mines have been forced to test every employee every morning as they arrive for their shift, others use random drug testing. Regardless as to what type of testing the mining companies are involved in, they are all aware of the growing problem, are concerned, and are trying to keep it under control.
And it is not just drugs that are a problem for mining companies. The abuse of alcohol is also creating endless problems. Arriving at work with a raging hangover with very little, or no sleep and then being put behind the wheel of massive truck on a mining site can prove to be lethal. Young miners are often earning huge salaries and living on site where they have little to spend their money on, and where it can be poured into supporting what can be an alcohol or drug problem.
Those wanting to abuse alcohol and drugs have also become clever, and have worked out how long it takes for these substances to be out of their systems when tested, and so often will abuse drugs and alcohol knowing that by the time they arrive back on shift they will be in the clear. There are those that will argue that what people do in their time off is their business, and if they want to dabble in some drug and alcohol recreational use in their spare time, that has no impact on their work performance, that that is their business. However for others the worry is if they start developing a dependency on these substances, it can prove to be very problematic in the workplace.
Drug and alcohol abuse among mine workers is an ongoing battle, as substances are often used as a copying mechanism to deal with the stresses of daily life. The working conditions specifically associated with the mining industry are unfortunately such that are conducive to drug and alcohol abuse. Being isolated from family and friends for extended periods of time and the physical demands of long shifts, as well as excess cash because of high wages, are all catalysts to creating an environment where miners abuse substances.
Because of the sheer volume and availability of a host of recreational drugs, many extremely dangerous and addictive, the mining industry will have to continue to work hard to stay on top of this problem, as the effects of substance abuse continues to wreak havoc across communities not only in Australia, but across the world.