The Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC), with support from the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC), has released a report into the use of drugs and alcohol by workers in Australia’s farming and fishing industries.
The report, based on data gathered from grain, sugar, cotton and fishing industry sites in New South Wales and Victoria, was commissioned to raise awareness of the scope of drug and alcohol use by farming and fishing employees and the impact of that use on the workplace and also on rural communities and families.
The study’s lead researcher, Dr Julaine Allan from Charles Sturt University’s Centre for Inland Health, said 43 per cent of those taking part in the study were identified as risky drinkers who consumed large amounts of alcohol frequently.
“Risky drinkers are those who consume more than the two standard drinks a day with two alcohol free days per week, recommended by the National Health and Medical Research Council,” Dr Allan said.
“Around half of those in the study drinking at risky levels had five or six drinks every day, putting them at risk of long term harm.”
The study found that the use of illicit drugs was at much lower levels amongst rural workers when compared to excessive alcohol consumption. Of those studied, 13.7 per cent reported using cannabis and 9 per cent admitted to using amphetamines.
Younger participants typically reported binge drinking (10 or more drinks once or twice a week) at social gatherings whereas older participants reported drinking between five and eight drinks regularly, often daily, at home.
The report is expected to be a useful basis for development of strategies to reduce problematic drug and alcohol use, and support rural employers to maintain and grow their workforce.