Pharmaceutical Drugs and Employment

This section provides information about pharmaceutical drug use and employment. Differences in use patterns between employed and unemployed Australians, as well as those not in the labour force, are examined.

This section uses data from the 2016 National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS) (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2018) for individuals aged 14 years and older. The NDSHS is a triennial general population survey of Australians' awareness, attitudes, and behaviours relating to alcohol and other drug use. It is one of the best data sources available to provide a national population employment profile of Australians’ patterns of pharmaceutical drug use.

To ensure consistency with the source data, this section of the NADK includes the following pharmaceutical drugs:

  • Pain-killers/pain-relievers/opioids
  • Tranquillisers/sleeping pills
  • Methadone/buprenorphine.

Not all of these drugs are included in each FAQ, due to small numbers of people using some drug types, and limitations of the dataset. Footnotes have been provided in each FAQ to identify exactly which drugs are referred to and how they have been defined according to the NDSHS.   

What negative consequences does pharmaceutical drug use have for Australian workplaces?

There is a degree of risk when employees use pharmaceutical drugs for medical or non-medical purposes. This risk may be increased if pharmaceutical drugs are used by employees whose work role requires abstinence from specific pharmaceutical drugs (for instance, prescription drugs which specify that driving or operating heavy machinery should be avoided when under their influence).

People react differently to drugs. The way in which one person reacts to a pharmaceutical drug may differ from another’s reaction. How a pharmaceutical drug affects a person is unknown if the drug has not been used before, and/or is used for non-medical purposes.

 

Source: Adapted from Alcohol and Drug Foundation (2016)

Is the employment status of Australians related to non-medical pharmaceutical drug use in the past 12 months?

Australians tend to use pharmaceutical drugs for non-medical purposes at relatively similar rates, regardless of employment status. However, unemployed Australians are slightly more likely than Australians who are employed or not in the labour force to have used pharmaceutical drugs for non-medical purposes in the past 12 months.

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). 2016 National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NCETA secondary analysis, 2019).

† This FAQ uses data from the National Drug Strategy Household Survey, which defines the pharmaceutical drugs referred to in this question as: the non-medical use of pain-killers/pain-relievers/opioids (panadeine forte, nurofen plus, mersyndol, disprin forte, morphine and oxycodone (excluding paracetamol, asprin and ibuprofen where these drugs are the only active ingredients)), tranquillisers/sleeping pills (e.g., sleepers, benzos, tranks, temazzies, temaze, rivotril, serepax, serries, xanax, xannies, stilnox, rohypnol, rowies, valium) and methadone/buprenorphine (e.g., done, junk, jungle juice, bupe, sub).

* Estimate has a relative standard error of 25% to 50% and should be used with caution.

** Estimate has a relative standard error greater than 50% and is considered too unreliable for general use.

Employed: Self-employed or working for salary or wages.

Employment Status: Whether an individual is currently: a) employed; b) unemployed; or c) not in the labour force.

Non-medical use: A drug used:

  • By itself to induce a drug experience or feeling; or
  • With other drugs in order to enhance a drug experience.

Not in the Labour Force: Engaged in home duties, volunteer/charity work, student, retiree/pensioner, other.

Unemployed: Those who are not currently working and are actively seeking employment.

Are employed men or employed women in Australia more likely to have used pharmaceutical drugs for non-medical purposes in the past 12 months?

Similar proportions of employed Australian men and women have used pharmaceutical drugs for non-medical purposes in the past 12 months.

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). 2016 National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NCETA secondary analysis, 2019).

†This FAQ uses data from the National Drug Strategy Household Survey, which defines the pharmaceutical drugs referred to in this question as: the medical or non-medical use of pain-killers/pain-relievers/opioids (panadeine forte, nurofen plus, mersyndol, disprin forte, morphine and oxycodone (excluding paracetamol, asprin and ibuprofen where these drugs and the only active ingredients)), tranquillisers/sleeping pills (e.g., sleepers, benzos, tranks, temazzies, temaze, rivotril, serepax, serries, xanax, xannies, stilnox, rohypnol, rowies, valium) and methadone/buprenorphine (e.g., done, junk, jungle juice, bupe, sub).

* Estimate has a relative standard error of 25% to 50% and should be used with caution.

Employed: Self-employed or working for salary or wages.

Non-medical use: A drug used:

  • By itself to induce a drug experience or feeling; or
  • With other drugs in order to enhance a drug experience.

Are younger or older Australian employees more likely to have used pharmaceutical drugs for non-medical purposes in the past 12 months?

Younger employed Australians tend to use pharmaceutical drugs for non-medical purposes slightly more often than older employed Australians.

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). 2016 National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NCETA secondary analysis, 2019).

†This FAQ uses data from the National Drug Strategy Household Survey, which defines the pharmaceutical drugs referred to in this question as: the medical or non-medical use of pain-killers/pain-relievers/opioids (panadeine forte, nurofen plus, mersyndol, disprin forte, morphine and oxycodone (excluding paracetamol, asprin and ibuprofen where these drugs are the only active ingredients)), tranquillisers/sleeping pills (e.g., sleepers, benzos, tranks, temazzies, temaze, rivotril, serepax, serries, xanax, xannies, stilnox, rohypnol, rowies, valium) and methadone/buprenorphine (e.g., done, junk, jungle juice, bupe, sub).

* Estimate has a relative standard error of 25% to 50% and should be used with caution.

** Estimate has a relative standard error greater than 50% and is considered too unreliable for general use.

Employed: Self-employed or working for salary or wages.

Non-medical use: A drug used:

  • By itself to induce a drug experience or feeling; or
  • With other drugs in order to enhance a drug experience.

Are unemployed men or women in Australian more likely to have used pharmaceutical drugs for non-medical purposes in the past 12 months?

Unemployed men in Australia are more likely to have used pharmaceutical drugs for non-medical purposes in the past 12 months than unemployed women.

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). 2016 National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NCETA secondary analysis, 2019).

†This FAQ uses data from the National Drug Strategy Household Survey, which defines the pharmaceutical drugs referred to in this question as: the medical or non-medical use of pain-killers/pain-relievers/opioids (panadeine forte, nurofen plus, mersyndol, disprin forte, morphine and oxycodone (excluding paracetamol, asprin and ibuprofen where these drugs are the only active ingredients)), tranquillisers/sleeping pills (e.g., sleepers, benzos, tranks, temazzies, temaze, rivotril, serepax, serries, xanax, xannies, stilnox, rohypnol, rowies, valium) and methadone/buprenorphine (e.g., done, junk, jungle juice, bupe, sub).

* Estimate has a relative standard error of 25% to 50% and should be used with caution.

** Estimate has a relative standard error greater than 50% and is considered too unreliable for general use.

Non-medical use: Drugs used:

  • By itself to induce a drug experience or feeling; or
  • With other drugs in order to enhance a drug experience.

Unemployed: Those who are not currently working and are actively seeking employment.

Among those not in the labour force, are men or women in Australia more likely to have used pharmaceutical drugs for non-medical purposes in the past 12 months?

Similar proportions of Australian men and women who are not in the labour force have used pharmaceutical drugsfor non-medical purposes in the past 12 months.

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). 2016 National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NCETA secondary analysis, 2019).

†This FAQ uses data from the National Drug Strategy Household Survey, which defines the pharmaceutical drugs referred to in this question as: the medical or non-medical use of pain-killers/pain-relievers/opioids (panadeine forte, nurofen plus, mersyndol, disprin forte, morphine and oxycodone (excluding paracetamol, asprin and ibuprofen where these drugs are the only active ingredients)), tranquillisers/sleeping pills (e.g., sleepers, benzos, tranks, temazzies, temaze, rivotril, serepax, serries, xanax, xannies, stilnox, rohypnol, rowies, valium) and methadone/buprenorphine (e.g., done, junk, jungle juice, bupe, sub).

* Estimate has a relative standard error of 25% to 50% and should be used with caution.

** Estimate has a relative standard error greater than 50% and is considered too unreliable for general use.

Non-medical use: Drugs used:

  • By itself to induce a drug experience or feeling; or
  • With other drugs in order to enhance a drug experience.

Not in the Labour Force: Engaged in home duties, volunteer/charity work, student, retiree/pensioner, other.