Firms' worries over staff taking drugs as mephedrone use grows

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Media captionThe use of mephedrone has grown in Wales

One in three employers in Wales would not know how to tell if a worker was under the influence of recreational drugs, a survey has found.

The findings come amid growing concern about the level of new-style drugs such as mephedrone in Welsh communities.

Former senior serious crimes officer Martin Tavener said: "This drug is so prevalent and so easy to get hold of."

A conference on Thursday is to offer employers solutions to substance misuse by workers.

Home Office figures show that about one in three 16 to 24-year-olds use drugs.

The survey by the Cardiff-based marketing and research group RMG found that of the 200 businesses questioned, around 80% had a zero tolerance policy of workers being under the influence of recreational drugs when at work.

But in practice a third said they did not know how to tell when a worker was under the influence.

Commissioned by Synergy Health, which has laboratories in Abergavenny, Monmouthshire, the survey found that a similar proportion of firms said they were worried that drug taking outside work could affect safety and performance at work.

Very few however supported drug testing at work.

Dr Philip Kindred, from Synergy Health, said such testing would expect to find up to 10% of a workforce had taken drugs ranging from cannabis to cocaine and the abuse of prescription drugs.

He said: "There are quite a lot of companies where we have done tests and they've been shocked to find out how much of a problem it is.

"We have been to some companies and we've started doing testing and we've been told to stop doing it halfway through the day because they've come up with so many positives.

"It's only when they do the testing that they find out they have a problem."

A report earlier this year from the police regional intelligence unit for the Gwent, South Wales and Dyfed-Powys police areas highlighted the increase in the use of mephedrone in Wales.

It reported that the number of offences involving the drug in Wales had nearly doubled between April and December 2011 and the same period last year.

Mr Tavener, a former head of the regional intelligence unit, said: "It's very difficult for employers to know what [staff] do or control what they do.

"Drug treatment agencies will tell you that new psychoactive substances combined with alcohol are a very dangerous cocktail providing a lot of problems for them.

"Undoubtedly people are turning up in the workplace and performing poorly and they could be jeopardising their colleagues' safety, especially in safety-critical industries.

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Media captionDet Ch Insp Martin Tavener has just retired as head of the regional crime unit and spoke about mephedrone

"My real concern is the fact that [these drugs] are so easily available now.

"We're seeing [people in] all sorts of occupations - manual workers right through to people who work in offices - coming before the police and seeking help from drug treatment agencies."

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