Managing performance-enhancing drugs in the workplace: an OSH perspective

Drug-taking is usually seen as something that takes place
outside work, but it is likely to have a detrimental effect on work, and managerial
solutions are commonly about counselling, treatment or discipline. Everyday
explanations of drug-taking tend to focus on the individual user, whether they
are seen as an ‘addict' or a ‘recreational user'. The drug user may be seen as
demonstrating problematic behaviour, which is attributed to either personal
factors (e.g. propensity to take risks, inability to cope) or social environmental
factors (e.g. poverty, dysfunctional family relationships). Attempting to better
understand the use of performance-enhancing drugs poses several challenges to
the assumptions above, since people use enhancers in order to improve their
work, or to cope better with the demands of work.

There seems to be an increasing debate in relation to performance-enhancing
drugs discussing three main substances: Ritalin (methylphenidate), Provigil
(modafinil) and Adderall (amphetamine salts), which have been seen as the drugs
most commonly associated with cognitive or performance enhancement. In a
recently published article the authors extend the consideration of
pharmacological enhancers in view of discussions within the scientific
community and more widely in the media about a range of other substances. For
example: the idea of ‘micro-dosing' of hallucinogens such as LSD (lysergic acid
diethylamide) to increase creativity among software developers; the use of
substances such as beta-blockers to enhance the presentation of oneself in the
performance of work; and also the use of a wider range of substances such as
Noopept (N-phenylacetyl-L-prolylglycine ethyl ester) and other drugs classified
as ‘nootropics', which are seen as improving mental function.

The authors conclude, that traditional approaches to the prevention of drug use
in the workplace are based upon looking at the individual drug user as an
isolated problem to be treated. However, in policy terms, the use of a
normalisation perspective moves away from the more individual-focused approach
and emphasises the social context within which drug use is more likely to be
taken up. Accordingly, attempts to ban or make drugs illegal are ineffective,
in part because these attempts ignore the social context in which drug use may
be normalised or the working conditions under which individuals make what are,
for them, rational decisions to use performance enhancers.

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AplusA-online.de - Source: European Agency for Safety and Health at Work