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Alcohol and other drugs

For some small business owners, drinking or using other substances can become a form of self-medication to cope with the long work hours, fatigue and stress of running a business.

Left unchecked, this behaviour can not only impact on your general health and relationships, it can become problematic in the workplace.

There are a variety of legal and illegal drugs that people can develop an addiction to, from alcohol and medications such as painkillers, to illicit substances such as marijuana, cocaine or methamphetamine. Being affected by these substances, as well as the after effects such as come-down and withdrawal, can impact a person’s ability to work safely and effectively. It can also lead to absences from work and a loss of productivity.

The main one that I’ve seen in my business life has been depression and probably alcohol abuse.

Geoff, IT professional

Warning signs

If you are drinking or using drugs excessively, or feel like you need alcohol or drugs to get through the day – you may need to seek support.

Some other warnings signs include:

  • if you are spending a lot of time thinking about taking, or recovering from drinking or other substances
  • sweating, nausea or insomnia when not drinking or taking drugs
  • wanting to drink or take drugs as soon as you wake up
  • drinking or taking drugs on your own or hiding it from others.

What are the benefits of responsible use?

Reducing your substance use can produce several benefits.

  • Health improvements: It will decrease your risk of developing other health problems, improve your memory, and increase your energy, alertness and motivation.
  • Financial improvements: Using substances less frequently will reduce the amount of money you spend, you are less likely to miss work and will have more capacity to work longer hours.
  • Social improvements: Although there is a perception that drinking alcohol or taking drugs is a social activity, if you have a substance use disorder, it can be isolating and cause family disruption. Changing your behaviour can improve your relationships and give you the energy to be more active and social.
  • Self-confidence: By reducing your use, you will not only feel better, but you will look healthier too. By having fewer toxins in your body your overall health and wellbeing will improve.

Tips to reduce the impact of alcohol or other drugs

  • Take note of how much you are using and when: There are a number of apps and tools for tracking how much you’re drinking or using.
  • Seek help for underlying mental health problems: It is not uncommon for people to use alcohol or other drugs to “self-medicate” for other underlying issues. Conversely, drinking or drug use can put you at higher risk for mental health problems. If you are concerned about your mental health, you can visit your GP who can help you set up a Mental Health Care Plan for further treatment and support.
  • Avoid people who promote or enable the problem: Think about the people in your life who you only spend time with when drinking/using, or who encourage you to do so. Consider whether your relationship would exist without alcohol or drugs, and if it's time to re-evaluate the relationship.
  • Prioritise self-care: If you find yourself with the urge to drink or use, think of some alternatives to how you might use that time. For example, you could try and connect with others, get some exercise, take some down time to read a book, or do something else that relaxes your mind and body.
  • Reach out for support: There are a number of resources and services available to people dealing with problematic drug or alcohol use. You might want to talk to a trusted friend or family member first, or go straight to your GP for support and a referral.

Further reading

Drug Help

Australian Government campaign providing resources and links to support

More Resources