• Testing for drugs at work

      Concateno is Europe’s leading alcohol and drugs testing company.  John Wilson, Manager of the Employee Services division, offers some practical advice for public sector organisations considering the introduction of workplace testing.

      The necessity of drug and alcohol testing has become increasingly recognised by many in the public sector. Traditionally, industries such as maritime and rail have instigated mandatory drug and alcohol testing to fulfil regulatory requirements. In public sector organisations which are non-regulated, it is important for senior management to understand the risks that they may face by not implementing an active drug and alcohol policy.  In many cases the risk of not testing is far greater than the implications of doing so.  

      The most recent British Crime Survey shows that around 5% of the UK’s adult population (16-59 year olds) use drugs on a monthly basis. The issue of drug testing can be a sensitive one, often creating challenging situations for both employers and employees. However, introducing these tests to the workplace can increase safety and encourage the well being of employees.

      The decision to enforce drug testing can arise after a drug or alcohol related incident, industry regulation, law, employment requirement, or simply just to encourage the best possible practice within the company. The Health and Safety Act of 1974 states that employers have the duty to provide a safe working environment.  This includes ensuring that they do not knowingly allow an employee to work when impaired by alcohol or after misusing illegal drugs.

      It is vitally important that any drug and alcohol testing is conducted to the highest industry standards, as behind every test is a person and their livelihood is at a potential risk following a positive result.

      Drug and Alcohol Policy

      The first step is setting a clear drug and alcohol policy which needs to be supportive and not punitive, ultimately creating a safer working environment for all.  An effective drug and alcohol policy should be robust and relevant for the improvement of health and safety in the workplace. Companies should always seek legal advice to check the policy, before it is implemented.


      The policy then needs to be clearly communicated to the workforce, explaining the start date, the type of tests that will be used in the process, the testing process and the consequences of a positive result. 

      Employee Assistance Programme (EAP)

      Drug and alcohol abuse is often the result of other factors in an employee’s personal or working life. A crucial part of best practice is an effective Employee Assistance Programme - a confidential service that combines online advice with 24-hour phone assistance, providing help with issues such as financial concerns, bereavement and family problems.

      Drug and Alcohol Testing Procedures

      The use of an accredited testing company is highly recommended, ensuring correct and strict testing policies, providing defensible evidence and peace of mind.

      There are several important elements to drug and alcohol testing procedures that testing companies should provide:

      Collection Process

      The preferred way of collecting a sample is through an accredited collection officer from a testing company, who will be responsible for sending the sample to the laboratory.

      The other alternative is ‘self-collect’ where the employer collects samples from employees themselves. The person assigned to collect samples must be trained by an accredited supplier, making sure the test result is legally defensible.

      Chain of Custody

      This ensures the result of each test is indisputable. This includes a Chain of Custody form, with secure packaging to protect the sample during transit to the laboratory as well as tamper evident seals on the specimen containers and laboratory checks on arrival to confirm Chain of Custody is intact. 

      Testing process

      In-depth testing is carried out in the laboratory by specialist technicians.  At the laboratory, samples undergo screening and/or confirmation testing under strictly controlled conditions. Once again, the full Chain of Custody procedure ensures sample integrity for legally defensible testing.

      How testing is changing workplaces

      Nearly all employees welcome accredited drugs testing.  It increases productivity and safety in the workplace whilst reducing the number of accidents and absences.  A combination of communication, education, and professional service will ensure successful drug testing in the workplace, taking an organisation one step closer to a safe and positive workplace.

       Concateno brings together Europe’s strongest and most experienced drug and alcohol testing organisations and over 60 years of collected expertise.

       Concateno offers an unparalleled breadth of advisory services and testing capabilities – spanning laboratory, point of care tests and all sample types for any biological specimen, including urine, oral fluids, hair and sweat.



    • Gail Porter, depression, and CBT

      Psychotherapist Avy Joseph offers his own explanation as to why he thinks Gail Porter suffered a breakdown, as well as explaining why Cognitive Behaviourial Treatment (CBT) is so important in treating depression.... in treating depression in. 

      ‘We are largely, but not always, responsible for how we feel’ is one of the principles of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy.  Both nature and nurture play a hand. Gail Porter has spoken out in the Daily Mail recently about her experience of depression to help highlight the treatment of it in the UK as she wasn’t offered therapy.

      Depression is a mood disorder, comes in many types and variations, has different triggers and often needs to be treated through therapy alongside drugs.  Mood disorders include depressive, as well as bi-polar disorders.  As therapists, we need to ensure accurate assessment, preferably made by a Consultant Psychiatrist, and work with medical as well as other mental health professionals to treat it effectively, as prescribing drugs alone will not produce a lasting solution for most patients.

      There are many different types of depression.  Some forms are biological, like clinical depression.  Here the depression may not be a reaction to something that has happened but more of a chemical imbalance.  This is best treated first with medication, and then with therapy.  Other types of depression include 'reactive depression'.  This type of depression is usually triggered when either real or perceived loss or failure is experienced and you end up feeling stuck in it.

      Post natal and bi-polar depression are examples of clinical depression. They are triggered by a chemical imbalance in the brain and medication is more often than not a vital treatment.  Clinical depression can also as a result of a long period of depression.   There are two aspects to this: biology and psychology.   Gail’s biology could mean that she is more pre-disposed to depression, just as someone may be more pre-disposed to putting on weight. Just as some may have to work out for hours every day to be a size 8, Gail may need to keep on top of her psychological health more than others to keep her head above water.

      Depression can also be a reaction to negative life.  Gail’s depression may have been reactive: a reaction to negative life events and other problems like eating disorders.  Her own beliefs and thoughts about her herself and about her ability to cope would have contributed to her feelings of anxiety and depression.  Usually, patients suffer from having unhealthy beliefs about themselves like ‘I’m worthless’, I’m useless’ or ‘I’m a total failure’, or other self damning beliefs.   As she said, ‘There was little work and no job offers. The only work I had was as a panellist on Channel 5’s The Wright Stuff, but that was only once every two months and not enough to cover my outgoings. Credit-card bills were mounting up and I had no way to pay them.’ This implies that she may have been feeling extremely anxious, another emotion that usually accompanies depression. She therefore spiralled down to the point of being unable to think in a rational way, meaning the irrationality became worse.

      Depression has very distinct differences from sadness; during depression you can only focus on negatives, you think you are a failure and the future is hopeless. During sadness, you can think of both the positives and negatives and you can see the potential for you to move forwards in the future.

      Sadness is the healthy version of depression.  Sadness is also triggered when loss or failure happens but it is an emotional state that you naturally heal from.  When you feel sad you retain your sense of hope for the future, unlike when you feel depressed.  This is good to know because we can change our beliefs or thinking. It means that change is possible in the here and now. It shows that we can free ourselves from negative and unhelpful thinking patterns and behaviour.

      We all of have two types of thinking patterns or beliefs, beliefs that are healthy (rational) and beliefs that are unhealthy (irrational). Healthy beliefs lead to emotional well-being and enable you to achieve your goals and to move on and heal yourself when something bad happens.  Beliefs that are unhealthy lead you to feel stuck and sabotage your healing.

      Healthy beliefs are flexible and are based on the things that you want, but they are realistic.  An example of a healthy belief about loss may be 'I would have liked not to have lost my relationship but I accept that I did.  This does not mean I am an unworthy or a failure.  I'm worthy but fallible.  My worth does not depend on my loss'.  Essentially, you do not put a condition on yourself despite your loss or failures.  This type of belief leads to sadness about the loss but not depression.

      Unhealthy beliefs are the opposite of the healthy ones.  They are inflexible, based on MUSTS, HAVE TO, GOT TO, NEED TO, ABSOLUTELY SHOULD. They are unrealistic and unhelpful because they do not allow you to accept the loss or the failure.  An example of an unhealthy belief about loss may be 'I absolutely should not have lost my relationship.  The fact that I did proves I'm a failure and worthless'. This type of belief would cause depression when loss or failure occurs.

      Therapy is essential to help the depressed person gain insight and become proactive. Gail would have been in a long state of anxiety that wasn’t solved, so as she herself has said, it was probably a response to intense anxiety about finances and her inability to solve the aspects of her life that she may have  ‘perceived’ as failures which could have led to the breakdown. And that is quite understandable.

      Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) is a form of therapy that looks at how our thinking, attitudes, beliefs, opinions and behaviour were formed, how they affect our emotions, bodies, behaviours, lives and happiness, and how changing them can helps us get better, feel better and achieve more. CBT is supported by a wealth of research, is used extensively by the NHS and recommended by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), for many emotional and psychological problems.

      CBT stresses that on the whole we all have a capacity for creating, altering and controlling our emotional states. It places emphasis on currently-held attitudes, painful emotions, and unhelpful behaviours that can sabotage a happier experience of life. That is, it teaches people how to overcome past, present and future problems by focusing on and changing presently unhealthy beliefs.

      CBT offers proven techniques for solving problems. CBT practitioners work closely with their clients, seeking to help them uncover the beliefs that frequently lead to emotional distress. It then provides a variety of methods to help people reformulate their unhealthy beliefs into more sensible, realistic and helpful ones by employing powerful techniques. Ultimately, it helps people to develop a philosophy and approach to living that can increase their effectiveness and happiness in many areas of life. If someone you know is suffering from depression, CBT is highly effective and should be viewed to be as important as any prescribed drug.

      To find out more about Avy Joseph, click here.

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