Formal treatment programs, especially opioid pharmacotherapy treatment (OPT), help some to fit their consumption around their work commitments. Some say that by reducing the desire for the drug and physical symptoms of ‘withdrawal’, OPT allows them to continue working while cutting down (see also Pharmacotherapy/Medication treatment). As Zadie (F, 33, works in the health sector, heroin) puts it, ‘I just didn’t have the luxury to stop work [to detox]. I had to keep working. So the only way to do that [while] taking the heroin away was with some pharmacotherapy’. However, some also note that pharmacotherapy dosing regimes are difficult to fit in with their work schedules. As Helen (F, 53, not working due to injury, heroin) explains, ‘It has been an issue for me where employers haven’t been very flexible to allow me to get to the clinic on time or, you know, allow me to come in half an hour late because I have to go to the clinic first’.
Starting a new job is described by some as offering a reason or an opportunity to change their patterns of consumption (see also Changing patterns of consumption). For example, Zac (M, 53, works in health services, party drugs) cut down on ice before starting a new job because, as he puts it, ‘I wanted to be in the best head space for how I feel about myself and I how feel about work. So I didn’t want to be, you know, feeling a comedown or being at work and having self-doubt. And with crystal [ice], that’s what it tends to do’.
Confidentiality, telling others & discrimination in the workplace
While some say they feel comfortable telling their co-workers about their consumption, others say they avoid doing so because they’re concerned they’ll be discriminated against or even lose their job if their employer becomes aware of it (see also Relationships, confidentiality & telling others; Dealing with stigma & discrimination). When Tiffany (F, 33, works in hospitality, ice) was working full-time and taking ice every other day, she says, ‘It was tiring […] I felt so guilty […and] so paranoid at work […thinking] I’m going to get caught out’. Several say they feel unsupported by co-workers and some have even lost their jobs in relation to their alcohol or other drug use.
Fozz (M, 59, works in employment services, alcohol) says that while working in an ‘uncongenial […] environment’ his drinking ‘escalated’, but his co-workers made ‘jokes’ about him rather than offering help.