More than one in 10 employees would take prescription drugs in order to cope with work pressures, potentially risking their health, a German study has found.
Three per cent of workers in Germany surveyed by the University of Cologne reported that they had in the past taken prescription drugs to enhance their cognitive function and alleviate work strain.
The researchers found that the job demands most likely to push employees to take prescription drugs for cognitive enhancement included working time, overtime, shift work, emotional demands, job insecurity, leadership responsibility and increased strain.
Women, older employees and those with a high level of education were the most likely to be willing to take drugs to cope with work strain.
“Our study suggests that respondents who perceive more stress hope that taking prescription drugs is sufficient to help them cope with pressure, and therefore increase or maintain their brain function,” says Dr Sebastian Sattler, one of the researchers.
“Although employees might experience such drug use as beneficial, they also risk side effects and long-term health consequences, while at the same time their colleagues might perceive such behaviour as getting an unfair edge.”
Dr Sattler said that employers, health professionals and at-risk individuals should be made aware of resources that can help with stress management in order to deter prescription drug use. Organisatons might also consider offering resilience training or changes to the way that employees’ jobs are designed to help staff handle stress and increase work performance.
The study, published in the Current Psychology journal, used data from a representative survey of employees in Germany. The researchers analysed various job demands and resources, levels of perceived stress and willingness to use drugs for non-medical purposes.
Study into substance abuse
Separately, a Coventry University academic midwife is leading research project that is aiming to gauge how best to support the health and wellbeing of healthcare professionals who have turned to substance use.
The research led by Dr Sally Pezaro, a midwife and associate researcher in the university’s Centre for Arts Memory and Communities, is exploring the challenges faced by midwives in particular, their intentions to leave the sector and how to best support the midwifery population, particularly with the additional pressures brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Her latest research followed a survey of 623 midwives in 2020, which found a number of factors preventing midwives from seeking help in the workplace. These included lack of support, fear, shame and stigma around such challenging issues.
Dr Pezaro, in collaboration with chartered psychologist Dr Karen Maher, is appealing to midwives across the UK to take part in a new survey in order to further understand factors that have affected their health and wellbeing.
In particular, the research is looking to further understand problematic substance use in the midwifery profession and tackle barriers to necessary support and intervention.
For those interested, more details on the research and how to participate in the survey can be found here.