Professionals with drug and alcohol problems

Drug & alcohol problems at work

The role of the Occupational Health Professional / Company Doctor

How company doctors should handle addicted patients

Dr Mike McCann describes the role of Occupational Health Professionals as "a fine balance between the employee and the company or the manager."

It is important that everyone involved is working together – especially the health professional, the line manager and the human resource advisers.

Occupational Health Professionals have a duty of care towards the employee and must provide advice to the manager about how to deal with complex medical cases. Alcohol and drug problems can be classified as very complex. 

Many occupational health professionals will refer an employee to their GP who has access to local alcohol and drug teams, another option is to refer them directly to the experts in an alcohol and drug rehab clinic. 

"Addiction specialists are a very rare breed... It is important to get the right people assessing the individual, the degree of their addiction and then channelling them into the right type of treatment. Alcohol and drug problems are a medical problem." - Dr Mike McCann, Occupational Health Physician. 

The role of the Occupational Health Professional:

  • Early identification and treatment, onward referral and supporting line managers.
  • As an advisor who is outside the line management chain. Employees find the objectivity and confidentiality this brings reassuring.
  • Acting as an important liaison with external specialists.
  • Helping to train and inform other key players in the organisation.
  • Monitoring and surveillance of workplace health indicators that may be indicative of work-related health problems.

Advice for company doctors when handling employees with alcohol or drug addiction problems:

  • Follow the alcohol/drug abuse policy of the company.
  • Refer the employee to the care of experienced and trained addiction professionals.
  • Liaise with the addiction professionals during admission and discharge from the clinic.
  • Follow-up support after the employee returns to work.