EurWORK European Observatory of Working Life

EWCO CAR on Use of Alcohol/Drugs at the Workplace

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  • Observatory: EurWORK
  • Topic:
  • Published on: 07 May 2012

Nadezhda Daskalova

Disclaimer: This information is made available as a service to the public but has not been edited by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions. The content is the responsibility of the authors.

Since the early 1990s, drug abuse and drug trafficking have emerged as a visible and serious problem in Bulgaria together with the existing problem of alcohol use.  However, information about the extent of alcohol and drugs use at the workplace is missing. The statistics does not provide such specific data; there are not also surveys and research to deal with this issue. The focus of public debates and policies is on young people while the extension of this phenomenon at the workplace is rarely discussed. The national preventive strategies and programmes do not even mention the workplace situation. The issue is not as yet on the agenda of social partners and they are not involved (or are marginally involved at local level) in the elaboration and implementation of the national policy.


Block 1: Main sources of information dealing with the issue of alcohol/drug use at the workplace at national level and its relation with working conditions, etc.

1.1 Are there national statistical sources (surveys, administrative registers including company reports as surveys / reports from the Labour Inspectorate, Labour doctors, etc) that provide information on the issue of alcohol/drug use at the workplace in your country? If so, identify them and explain their characteristics and methodology. Please refer both to general population health surveys/sources or general alcohol/drug use surveys/sources as to working conditions or workplace specific surveys/sources

There are no national statistical sources, administrative reports and surveys especially dealing with the use of alcohol and drug at the work place. The national statistics provides only statistics on alcohol/drug related criminal offences (available on: In 2001 census of the population a special module on alcohol use was introduced.

Information about the use of alcohol and drugs in general and by specific groups is provided in the national annual reports prepared by the National focal point on drugs and drug addiction (NFP) of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA). However these reports do not consider the workplace issues.

  • Name of the statistical source

Annual Report on the state of drug related problems in Bulgaria, National focal point on drugs and drug addiction, 2010

  • Scope

General population aged 15–64 years

  • Goals

To update the country information about new developments and trends related to national policies; drug use by general population and specific groups; most common used drugs; prevention of drug use, health and social problems, etc.

  • Methodology

The Annual report is based on the findings of a National representative survey among the general population aged 15-64 years on the use of psychoactive substances. The method of face to face interviews was used to collect empirical information about the drug use. The National report follows also the methodology of the EMCDDA.

  • Periodicity


First National Report on the drug situation was prepared in 1998 (Available at: Since then annual reports have been prepared in 2000 and each year since 2004, available at:

1.2. Are there any other sources of information (published after mid-2000s) that may provide valuable information on the issue (i.e. ad-hoc studies, sectoral studies, administrative reports, articles, published case studies, etc). If so, identify and describe them.

Most drug-related research in Bulgaria focuses on the prevalence and characteristics of drug use, informational needs, attitudes towards drugs and drug use and other relevant drug-related issues among different categories of population: general population surveys; school population surveys; specific population (university students and prisoners), as well as prevalence estimates of problem drug use at city and local level, and have been carried out by or with the active participation of the NFP. However these surveys and reports do not include the workplace drug and alcohol related issues.

To mention some of these surveys:

  1. National representative survey among the general population on the use of psychoactive substances, carried out by National Focal Point on Drugs and Addictions, National Centre for Public Opinion Research and National Centre for Social Strategies and Initiatives, conducted in February-March 2005, sample: 1037 persons aged 18-60 from 86 settlements throughout the country.

  2. National representative survey among the general population aged 15-64 years on the use of psychoactive substances, carried out by sociological research agency MBMD in cooperation with the NFP in December 2008, the sample was based on random selection and includes 5 139 people. The use of drugs and alcohol was done through three indicators - life time prevalence, last 12 months prevalence, last 30 days prevalence.

Unfortunately these surveys do not provide information which is disaggregated by employment or occupational status of the surveyed population.

Police reports on the registered drug users and drug sellers also provide general information about the number of users of different substances.

Block 2: Information on the extent of the use of alcohol and drugs at the workplace in your country, as well as the type of situations (sectors, occupations, working conditions, etc.) in which this use occurs, its consequences (production process, social relations at work) and the rationale behind it

2.1. Please provide the available data and information on the prevalence of drug/alcohol use at the workplace in your country, if possible differentiating data by:

  • Type of substance

  • Sectors => specific focus on the construction and transport sectors

  • Occupational profiles

  • Other relevant variables

There is no data available on the prevalence of drug/alcohol use by employment status or at the workplace as well as on the types of situations in which this use occurs, its consequences and sector prevalence. The data available are for the general population with focus namely on young people – students and school pupils. There is only information that 13% of persons being involved in treatment and rehabilitation programme (a total of about 3000 persons involved) are employed.

According to expert estimations presented at a workshop on toxicology (available at: about 70% of the Bulgarians are drinking. 40% of men and 7% of women are drinking on a regular basis, while between 6 to 8% (about 300 000 people) are addicted to alcohol and need medical treatment.

Since the beginning of the 1990s, heroin has been the illicit drug associated with the highest level of drug-related problems. Based on the multiplier method using treatment data, and at the same time estimations from police, it was estimated that in 2004–05 there are about 20 000 to 30 000 problem heroin users in the country. The number of problem heroin users has remained relatively stable since then.

In 2005 at least 315 000-330 000 Bulgarian citizens aged 15 to 60 years have at least once in their lifetimes used some drug, of which young people aged 15 to 34 represent about 88-90 % (see Annual Report of Bulgaria 2006).

The latest data available for drug use (Results of the already mentioned representative survey in 2008) for the general population show:

Approximately each twelfth person interviewed (8,6 %) has used at least once in his / her life some drug (approximately 450-455 thousand people from the population), while 1.8% (approximately 90-100 thousand people) declare last 30 days use and 3.2% - have used drugs in the last 12 months.

The most widely and increasingly used drug is cannabis - 7,3 % of the interviewed have tried it at least once in their lives (equivalent to approximately 190-200 thousand people). The next comes the group of stimulants: amphetamines - 2,1 % (approximately 55 thousand people), ecstasy - 1,7 % (approximately 45 thousand people) and cocaine - 1,7% (approximately 45 thousand people). The allocation of the use of heroin is in the range of 0,4 % (approximately 10 thousand people), but according to a number of other surveys and studies this is the most widely used substance among the problematic users of drugs.

Almost each fifth (19,1 %) Bulgarian aged between 15 and 24 years has used a drug at least once in his live, and almost each twentieth (5,5 %) has done so during the last month. This means that approximately 50 000 young people have used some kind of substances during the last 30 days. The levels of past and current use consistently decrease with the age and after 35 years of age the current use is practically negligible (between 0,5 and 0,0 %).

According to data of the National Service ‘Police’ at the Ministry of Interior in 2009 the divisions of the national police have registered a total of 4632 drug users (only users + users and dealers) in the country. The increase of registered users and dealers compared to 2008 is by 21%. About 20% of them are minors or under-aged, which seriously directs the attention towards the question of the drug use among teenagers in Bulgaria

2.2. Please provide data and information on the rationale and consequences of drug/alcohol use at work. Focus on construction, transport:

Reasons for consuming alcohol/drugs

  • Use of drugs related to certain working conditions (e.g. alcohol when working in cold / warm environments; stimulants when working at high rhythm, etc…)

  • Accessibility/availability

Consequences of consuming alcohol/drugs

  • working conditions affected by drug use (risk increase, accidents, absenteeism, sick leave…):

  • Accidents and fatalities due to alcohol/drug use

  • Sick leaves attributed to alcohol/drugs, absenteeism

  • Assessment of costs

  • Use of alcohol/drugs negatively affecting other working conditions:

  • Uneven workload distribution…

  • Work organisation

  • working environment (deteriorated social relations at work, higher number of conflicts…)

There are no statistics, surveys, ad hoc research of academia or employers or trade unions available related to the rationale and consequences of drug/alcohol use at work, both in general and in transport and construction.

Block 3: Identify legislation and agreements at national level concerning alcohol/drugs use at the workplace, specifically those related to testing practices

3.1. Please identify and describe the main existing legislation and agreements concerning the prohibition/limitation of alcohol/drug use at work:

  • Is there any legislation or agreement specifically intended to prohibit or limit alcohol/drug use at work? Please describe:

  • Type of legislation / agreement (Government or parliament laws, agreements from social dialogue, from the Governments and social partners, from other organisations, etc.)

  • Contents, stipulations

  • Collectives affected

The issues concerning the prohibition/limitation of alcohol/drug use at work are regulated generally in the Labour Code, which stipulates that it is forbidden to use alcohol and drugs or to be under their influence at the workplace or in working time. (Art. 126). The employee is obliged to come at work in appropriate condition which permits him/her to carry the tasks and not to use alcohol or other addictive substances. However there is no provision on how this is to be checked. The employer has the right to remove such employees temporary from work without paying him the remuneration (Art.199).

The same strict prohibition of alcohol and drugs use at the workplace following the Labour code provision in this respect is part of the Internal Rules of the activity of the company adopted in each company after consultation with the company trade union organisation/s.

Ethical codes of conduct of some organisations and companies also contain obligations not to use alcohol and drugs at work.

The Penal code stipulates that driver, who is driving with concentration of alcohol in the blood over 1,2 per mil should be liable to one year in prison, while if driving after drug use the driver is liable to two years in prison.

  • Is there any sectoral legislation or agreement with the same purpose? Please focus on the construction and transport sectors

There is no specific sectoral legislation or agreements dealing especially with the issues concerning the prohibition/limitation of alcohol/drug use at work. However the specific legislation (laws and ordinances) related to organisation and regulation of road, aviation, maritime and railway transport and construction contain among other things provisions strictly prohibiting to work under the influence of drugs, alcohol or other substances. The provisions related to prohibition of alcohol and drug use at workplace follow the provisions of the Labour Code mentioned above.

These laws contain also provisions for administrative sanctions and penalties. Thus, according to the Law for road driving (art. 171) drivers (including professional drivers) are subject to temporally suspension of the driving license and fine if the blood test shows concentration of alcohol between 0,5 to 1,2 per mil. Such sanctions are foreseen if the person refuses to undergo medical examination or test. The Code of trade navigation (art. 375), Law for railway transport and the Law for civil aviation (art.3, art. 143) also stipulate temporally removal from the post and fine if the person is under the influence of alcohol or drugs at work. The Law for Railway Transport stipulates that the Railway Administration - Executive Agency is entitled to control the work of the personnel and has the right to remove from work the employees under the influence of alcohol or drugs (art. 117).

The issues related to control and procedures for testing are subject to special ordinances of the Minister of transport and communications.(See part 3.2)

3.2. Specific focus on legislation / agreements regarding testing practices intended to control the use of alcohol/drugs at work. Please consider questions such us:

  • how are the tests regulated (agreements / legislation or are there guidelines)?

While stating the general prohibition of alcohol/drug use at the workplace the Labour Code does not provide any specific reference to the issue of alcohol and drug testing. There is no also specific legislation or agreement on workplace alcohol and drug use testing. The only specific regulations (decrees) on obligatory alcohol/drug testing apply to certain categories of workers in the transport branches, e.g. pilots, professional drivers, railway workers, ships crew. .

  • what type/forms of tests – testing methods and for what type of substances?

There are no special regulations. Testing methods depend on the medical establishment or the laboratory.

  • who can ask for tests, on who's initiative are tests initiated? for what purpose/reasons?

In case of suspicion the employer/the occupational medicine office has the possibility to send a worker to a medical examination, which could include drug testing.

Under Ordinance No 30/2001 on the order to fix the alcohol and drug use by the drivers the control body (traffic police) tested the driver with technical appliance and can send him for blood alcohol screening and in case of suspicion also for drug tests in the medical establishment under the approved list. To this end the control body issued special medical document, stating the medical establishment. It is related to cases of road accidents or regular inspection. The Ordinance provides very detailed requirements for the testing procedure.

The Ordinance No 54/2003 for medical and psychological requirements towards the personnel in the rail transport for carrying out medical examinations before traveling (before starting the work) contains a special chapter on detection of the use of alcohol and drugs, which defines the procedures for testing, the list of the safety sensitive positions which have to undergo a thorough medical examination. The medical examination is carried out by the special expert branches of the Transport hospital or transport diagnostic-consultative centres. The medical examination including alcohol and drug test have to be done to ensure that a person is fit for work.

However in practice due to the lack resources and tests the drug testing often constitutes an optional element in case of suspicion.

Similar procedures are applied in the water and air transport according to the relevant ordinances and internal rules.

  • is the consent of the person to be tested needed?

The consent of the person is needed. However under the cited Ordinance No 30/2001 the refusal to be tested leads to fines and administrative sanctions.

  • is pre-employment testing (before work contract signing) allowed? can tests be included as a clause in work contracts?

There are no special regulations and no public information of such practices.

  • by whom are the tests undertaken? are tests limited to safety sensitive positions or specific sectors (transport, etc.) or are they overall?

The tests are undertaken by the employer or controlling body. The tests are limited to safety sensitive positions in the transport. In all other cases if there is a suspicion that the person is under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

  • when, at what moment can tests be undertaken?

As stated above the regulations contain provisions for obligatory medical examination before starting work in the road, railway, water and air transport which includes also alcohol and drugs test. In all other cases when the suspicion arises. According to the regulations the tests must be made immediately or as soon as possible for obtaining reliable results.

  • What are the necessary established pre-conditions for proceeding for a test?

Regular medical examination in the transport branches or suspicion that the employee is under the influence of alcohol/drugs

  • what are the conditions/rules/procedure under which tests can be undertaken? what is the role of the labour doctor and labour inspectorate in testing?

The procedures from the medical point of view are set and describe in detail in the ordinances already mentioned.

  • To whom will the results be communicated and under what reporting form/

In case of alcohol and drug use related to work the results are communicated to the employer in a written statement.

  • who has access to the results of the tests?

Employer who is bound by confidentiality.

  • what can be the consequences of positive results on the work contractual relation?

The consequences in case of positive results, as stated above, are the removal of the employee from work, administrative sanctions or fine in line with the corresponding regulations.

Describe changes, evolution development of regulation / agreements on testing, drawing the attention to the review in light of the improvement of the testing methods

While the alcohol testing is well established practice the drug screening related to the workplace is not very popular and is still in its initial stage.

Block 4: Identify and describe national prevention programmes to combat the use of alcohol/drugs at the workplace, especially those based on agreements and cooperation of the social partners:

  • Organisation(s) responsible for these programmes

  • Drivers and motivations. Objectives

  • Target groups (sectors, specific occupations…)

  • Content and activities developed (campaigns for alcohol/drug free workplaces, information to workers, training, professional counseling and personal assistance, reintegration programmes…)

  • Tools (seminars, brochures, toolkits, guidelines, polls, tests…)

  • Inter-relation with other (health) programmes. Participation of health professionals

  • Are the prevention programmes integrated in the general working conditions/OSH training programmes and management systems?

  • Are the prevention programmes based on joint assessment of the social partners and defined in an agreed policy for the enterprises? Role of work councils and H/S committees.

  • Performance and outcomes of the programmes

  • Changes overtime

  • Assessment of the programmes. Point of view of the social partners.

There are no national prevention programmes or collective arrangements related to prevention of alcohol/drugs use of at the workplace. Social partners do not participate in the elaboration and in the implementation of the national prevention programmes (except programmes related to the inclusion of individuals who have successfully completed a course of treatment for drug dependence in training or in employment).

The first national anti-drug strategy of the Republic of Bulgaria covered the period 2003–2008. It is complemented by an action plan. The focus is mainly on general prevention at school, prevention at municipal level, and prevention in the family. The Strategy is covering both drug demand and drug supply reduction.

Bulgaria National Drug Strategy 2009–2013 (available at: was adopted in 2009 and is complemented by an action plan covering the same period. The main goals are to protect the health and the well being of citizens, safeguard a high level of security, and reduce the supply of drugs and precursors. Both documents cover illicit drugs, psychoactive medicines and precursors, and encompass two areas of action (demand reduction and supply reduction) as well as three transversal areas (public information system and scientific research, national coordination and international cooperation, improvement of the legislation).

The main objectives and features of prevention policy are: the expansion of systematic health education in the field of secondary education; development and implementation of programmes for assistance of parents; establishment and training of multidisciplinary teams; organising and conducting media campaigns for combating drugs and drug addiction; elaboration of programmes for sport and tourism for children and young people; and development and implementation of programmes for work with high-risk groups.

However the existing national strategies and action plans and programmes for their implementation do not even mention the workplace. The same is true for the National health strategy and the National strategy for limiting alcohol use. The existing strategies, programmes and measures only indirectly relate to the workplace issues.

Commentary by the NC

As the alcohol and drug use in the society at large is on increase, we have all grounds to consider that it is a serious problem also at the workplace. The quality and the productivity of the work undoubtedly are directly affected by addictive behaviours. However the issues of alcohol and drugs use at the work place are not high on the society and social partners’ agenda. There is a need of a shared commitment and engagement of the government and its agencies responsible for health and safety and wellbeing at work and social partners to develop comprehensive policies related to this very important issue.

Nadezhda Daskalova, ISTUR

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