Drug addiction on the rise among workers

German workers are increasingly turning to drugs to help them cope, with young employees particularly affected, a study released on Thursday revealed.

Drug addiction on the rise among workers
Photo: DPA

A study for health insurers AOK showed that while alcohol and smoking are the main cause for sick leave, more workers are also taking performance-enhancing pills.

Five percent of people insured by AOK admitted to taking drugs such as amphetamines while at work to improve their performance and cope with stress. For the under 30s the figure rose to 12 percent.

The number of days lost to sick leave through the pills has quadrupled since 2002. Helmut Schröder, who presented the study in Berlin on Thursday, spoke of a “clear trend”.

And the report warned that the addictiveness as well as the physical and psychological damage caused by the stimulants was being underestimated by young people.

Drug addiction is also having a knock-on effect on the economy. Uwe Deh from AOK said that alcohol and smoking addictions cost the German economy €60.25 billion a year. He said that the number of sick days lost to addictions had increased by 17 percent in the last ten years from 2.07 million in 2002 to 2.42 million in 2012.

Alcohol and smoking were the main causes of lost days, with 5.3 percent of those asked, admitting to drinking every day in the last week. Experts warned that dangers of addiction increased by drinking daily.

The report found that among those insured with AOK, one million working days were lost last year to alcohol, but the authors said that this was only the “tip of the iceberg” as the health impacts of drug addiction are normally diagnosed as other illness.

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Berlin’s first sober Späti: Is ‘mindful drinking’ the new pandemic trend?

Berlin is renowned for its culture of thrill and excess, but the pandemic has put a spanner in the works. Now the capitol is home to another trend: Germany’s first non-alcoholic Späti. 

Berlin’s first sober Späti: Is 'mindful drinking' the new pandemic trend?
Inside the shelves of Null Prozent Späti. Photo: DPA

In Berlin you can now find a specialist store and online shop selling non-alcoholic beer, rum, gin, vodka and wine. Those behind the business do not see themselves as Spaßbremsen (killjoys) but as followers of the ‘mindful drinking’ trend.

The Späti (short for ‘Spätkauf’, or late-night buy) is Berlin’s answer to a Kiosk (off-licence or convenience store). 

READ ALSO: More than a corner store: Spätis struggle for survival in a changing Berlin

In February this year, Null Prozent Späti opened its doors in the hip district of Kreuzberg. Both the store and online shop offer a constant selection of beer, rum, aperitifs, gin, vodka and tequila, as well as wines such as merlot and chardonnay. It should be noted that the store itself only stays open until 8pm.

The trend towards alcohol-free products has been clear across the beer market for years, and demand is now growing.

The brand Martini is heavily peddling its non-alcoholic aperitifs and an alcohol-free bar named Zeroliq has also opened up in the neighbouring Friedrichshain district in east Berlin.

The owners of the Späti, who hail from southern Germany, say ‘’we have more than 200 non-alcoholic alternatives on offer, which helps to answer the question of what to drink when you’re not drinking”.

Katja Kauf, 29, and Isabella Steiner, 32, trace their concept back to ingrained drinking habits that often go unquestioned, such as having a mimosa in the morning, an Aperol in the sun, or a Feierarbendbier (after-work beer).

         Kauf and Steiner enjoying alcohol-free drinks. Photo: DPA

The founders say that a social culture still prevails whereby it can seem difficult to turn down a drink “without being coaxed into it, not taken seriously, judged or branded a killjoy”. 

Aside from this, there are many reasons to forgo alcohol. The Kreuzberg innovators are primarily interested in new, tasty botanicals. Steiner, who comes from the Lörrach area, stresses that they are “saying yes to non-alcoholic alternatives rather than no to alcohol”.

The cliché target audience of pregnant women is just a small section of their market: over the last six months, online orders have come in from across the country, from Hamburg to Munich, Freiburg to Stuttgart. 

Steiner and Kauf are planning to write a book on ‘mindful drinking’, an approach that promotes exercising caution with regards to our drinking habits. 

Isabella Steiner also recently told the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper that “we believe that 2021 will be the year of the non-alcoholic drink. Berlin is often where new trends are pre-cooked, or in our case pre-bottled, and diversity is always a talking point here – why does this not also apply to our drinking habits?”

According to the Federal Office of Statistics, German beer sales in 2020 were down 5.5 percent as compared with the previous year. The impact of bar closures and lockdowns can be seen in the sharp decrease in consumption, but sales in Germany have been falling for some time, with a 22.3 percent decrease since 1993.

The average consumption of sparkling wine and spirits also fell in 2020, by 2.1 percent and 0.9 percent respectively.

READ ALSO: Can Germany’s small breweries survive the shutdown?