Europe: Government Must Support Employers in Hiring Drug Users, British Drug Watchdog Group Warns

With drug strategies and welfare reform plans in the British Isles moving toward pushing drug users into treatment and from treatment into the workplace, the British government is going to have to do a lot more to help drug users find jobs, a leading British drug policy think tank said in a report released this week. The report, Working Toward Recovery: Getting Problem Drug Users Into Jobs was published by the UK Drug Policy Commission and contains more than three-dozen recommendations aimed at easing the transition.

The report noted that while holding a job is a key component of drug user rehabilitation and integration into society, about 80% of problem drug users were unemployed. (The report defined "problem drug user" as someone dependent on heroin or crack cocaine.) And while government strategies in England, Scotland, and Wales are to get users off drugs and into jobs, the strategies are undeveloped and, and employer practices sometimes counterproductive.

In particular, the report criticized the informal "two years drug free" rule used by many employers. With the two years of abstinence including abstinence from opiate substitute medications, such as methadone, the practice is unduly harsh and unnecessary, given that many people on the controlled drug regimen have already achieved the stability employers say they want.

Employers are unlikely to want to hire problem drug users, with only 26% saying they would be prepared to hire a former drug user. Employers cited several types of risk associated with drug users -- from continuing drug use, to the firm's reputation, and to the firm's customers and employees -- and about three-quarters of them they needed more government help in developing risk assessments, support for drug using employees, and information about indemnity insurance.

The Labor government's welfare reform proposals will tie money to pay for drug treatment to drug users agreeing to a rehabilitation plan, the study noted. But with employment a big part of rehabilitation, the government is going to have to provide incentives and programmatic support if it is going to force those drug users into the job market.

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I'm not sure how well a

I'm not sure how well a heroin or crack addict can do any specific job, but i'm sure there must be many that he/she could do relatively well. There are addicts all over my home city standing on traffic lights begging for money, and they spend, at the very least, six hours a day standing on their feet asking for money every single day. I'm sure many of them probably do more than ten hours a day. That is a hard worker right there. You're telling me those guys can't paint houses, rake leaves, do landscaping, etc (or probably even better jobs than that)? Of course they can. Would they be responsible? They might very well be. I mean, they're addicted, aren't they? If they don't perform their jobs they don't get to afford their drugs.

I'm sure if drugs were legal there would be significantly less stigma attached to it, and drug users (former and current) would be employed a lot more often than they are now. (not to mention, obviously, those that have criminal records right now, which can never get a job). And not taking anyone who's on methadone, even after they've been clean of heroin for over two years?! That's just unfair. It's understandable, of course, but my point is the fear is unfounded. The reason they think a former drug user wouldn't be able to contribute is the stigma and prejudice factor. It's ignorance; plain and simple.

Something that could help this situation is changing the laws on minimum wage. There should be laws that guarantee fair pay (which would be defined somehow in an objective manner), instead of a law that specifically states a certain amount of money to be paid. The minimum wage law usually results in people with lesser skills not being able to get any kind of job.

Milton Friedman, btw, was against the minimum wage:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ca8Z__o52sk

An idea for you guys at DRCNet

The chronicle articles should have, in my opinion, the number of comments displayed, like you do with the blog posts on the home page. People love the conversation. I know I always check the amount of new comments on the articles every time I visit the site. It would be great if you did that for chronicle articles too. In fact, if possible, you should even do that on the links at the sides (chronicle links on the left, and "recent blog posts" and "similar entries" on the right.)

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