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Perceived and Self-Reported Licit and Illicit Drug Use Among Fishing Industry Workers on the Mid-North Coast of Western Australia

NCJ Number
Drug and Alcohol Review Volume: 21 Issue: 4 Dated: December 2002 Pages: 357-361
Susan Carruthers; Kevin Boots; Richard Midford
Date Published
December 2002
5 pages
This article discusses perceptions of boat owners and health workers regarding the use of alcohol and drugs within the West Australian mid-west coast fishing industry.
A survey was conducted among fishing industry workers concerning perceptions of drug use within the industry, the nature and frequency of licit and illicit drug use, and perceptions of work related harm associated with alcohol or illicit drug use. The project also consisted of key informant interviews. Results show that industry informants were aware of high alcohol and cannabis consumption among fishing industry workers. While there was recognition that alcohol and cannabis use affected work performance, this was not considered a problem in relation to their own workers. There was the perception that the use of illicit drugs among workers had decreased over the past 2 to 3 years. There was little knowledge of injecting drug use, but it appeared to be rare based on the number of overdoses recorded, the number of needle and syringes distributed, and the low usage of needle disposal bins in the area. A common perception was that alcohol and cannabis use was common, particularly when the boats were not working. There was some concern about bingeing behavior, especially involving alcohol. Protective factors identified through the industry informant interviews included the industry norm that illicit drug use (other than cannabis) was not tolerated by the workers; and the industry norm that the use of cannabis and alcohol was tolerated on the boats only during non-working hours. These factors are protective in that they may influence the level of use of alcohol, cannabis, and other drugs during working hours. Also, they may prevent those whose illicit drug use is more frequent or those that inject other than recreationally from seeking or maintaining employment on the fishing boats. Other commonly used illicit drugs were amphetamines, LSD, and ecstasy. Use was highest among the 26-to 35-year-old age group. 4 tables, 10 references