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The Approach Taken to Substance Abuse by Occupational Physicians: A Qualitative Study on Influencing Factors

Lambrechts, Marie-Claire MSc; Ketterer, Frédéric PhD; Symons, Linda MSc; Mairiaux, Philippe MD, PhD; Peremans, Lieve MD, PhD; Remmen, Roy MD, PhD; Vanmeerbeek, Marc MD, PhD; Godderis, Lode MD, PhD

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: November 2015 - Volume 57 - Issue 11 - p 1228–1235
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0000000000000549

Objective: Aiming to enhance occupational physicians’ (OPs) practice when dealing with employee substance abuse, this study analyzes the experiences of OPs to gain insight into the factors influencing their behavior.

Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted and analyzed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis.

Results: OPs act differently depending on the type of drug. Their approach was mainly determined by contextual factors and by their attitudes and skills. Many OPs want to invest in health promotion. Barriers such as lack of time and focus on periodic examinations often hamper both adequate prevention and the management of workers with substance abuse.

Conclusions: The approach to substance abuse by OPs could be supported by initiatives both at the individual and the collective level. A facilitating work context seems to be particularly important in their commitment to alcohol- and drug-related issues at work.

Centre for Environment and Health (Ms Lambrechts, Dr Godderis), KU Leuven, University of Leuven; Association for Alcohol and Other Drug Problems (Ms Lambrechts), VAD, Brussels; Department of General Practice/Family Medicine (Dr Ketterer, Dr Vanmeerbeek), University of Liege; Department of Primary and Interdisciplinary Care (Ms Symons, Dr Peremans, Dr Remmen), University of Antwerp, Wilrijk; Department of Public Health Sciences (Dr Mairiaux), University of Liege; Department of Public Health (Dr Peremans), Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Brussels; Department of Nursing and Midwifery (Dr Peremans), University of Antwerp, Wilrijk; and IDEWE (Dr Godderis), External Service for Prevention and Protection at Work, Heverlee, Belgium.

Address correspondence to: Marie-Claire Lambrechts, MSc, Centre for Environment and Health, Department of Public Health and Primary Care, KU Leuven, Kapucijnenvoer 35/5, Blok D, Box 7001, Leuven 3000, Belgium (

This work could be realized with the financial support of The Belgian Science Policy Office (Belspo); the Federal Public Service Health, Food Chain Safety and Environment and the Federal Public Service Employment, Labour and Social Dialogue (Contract DR/00/60).

Ethical approval: The Ethics committees of the Universities of Liege and Leuven gave their approval (Belgian No., respectively, B707201214939 and B322201317373).

The authors report no conflicts of interest.

Copyright © 2015 by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine