This year’s Euros has provided a rollercoaster of emotions for England fans up and down the country, no more than the 95th minute equaliser in the Round of 16. While we all celebrated the winner in extra time, and the nation breathed in a collective sigh of relief, the impact this type of experience has on your body cannot be underestimated. The stress hormones released, the high blood pressure, and the up and down heart rate can cause a downward spiral for those who struggle with addiction or those who are in recovery, particularly with regards to alcohol, drugs, and gambling.

New research from Birmingham & Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust revealed that the number of relapses for alcohol addiction spikes by up to 47 per cent when England play at the Euros. The longer England go into the tournament, the higher the risk of relapse due to the extreme highs and lows expected to be experienced. This further exacerbates the UK’s current and growing addiction crisis.

A rise in relapses will naturally have a knock-on impact on workplaces at a time where there is already a record number of workers already off sick from work. For those who do make it into work the next day, it can have a detrimental effect on their performance at work and their mental wellbeing.

Research from Hygiene UK found that seven in ten adults that abuse drugs are employed full time, and 60 per cent of poor performance in the workplace is related to substance use and/or abuse. Alcohol Change say that lost productivity from alcohol abuse costs the UK economy more than £7 billion a year, while 40 per cent of employers label this issue a ‘significant cause’ of low productivity.

This is also a growing issue with gambling in the workplace. The National Gambling Helpline reported that there was a 28 per cent increase in calls to the helpline after the Euro 2020. At Delamere, we find that office sweepstakes for major tournaments can trigger a relapse for anyone in recovery. Activities such as sweepstakes for events like the European Football Championship or the Grand National focus work conversation around gambling, which could trigger a relapse for anyone in recovery.

Similar to alcohol, gambling is an enjoyable low-level social activity for many, so it can permeate into social life, as well as the workplace, making it hard to avoid. While occasional betting isn’t usually a cause for concern, it’s when gambling becomes a compulsive act, rather than a bit of harmless fun, that the cards are marked.

Major sporting events could have a lot to answer for – these are also massively social occasions, often watched with friends in environments where drugs and alcohol may also influence gambling behaviour. Gambling Disorder often goes hand-in-hand with mental health problems, such as low mood and anxiety, as well as alcohol use disorders. With heavy financial consequences, gambling addiction can leave a trail of destruction in its wake, from job loss and unpaid debts to engagement in crime to fund the habit.

Problem gamblers often wrongly believe that they can control the outcome of a chance-based bet, leading psychiatrists to speculate over pre-existing cognitive disorders. Studies have also found a link between stressful life experiences and gambling addiction. People who have trouble regulating emotions or controlling stress are more likely to develop a gambling disorder.

So what should you look out for if you’re worried about a fellow colleague’s gambling habits, or if you’re an employer looking for signs of gambling addiction in a member of your team?

  • Withdrawal – Feeling irritable, restless, dissatisfied and depressed when not placing a bet
  • Progression – Smaller stakes no longer give the same ‘high’ or euphoric feeling, so bigger risks are taken, both in frequency and amount gambled.
  • One-track mind – The person seems to come alive when thinking about or planning their next bet.
  • Chasing their losses – The person may be unable to stop or moderate their actions despite big losses, debt, job or relationship issues or mental health problems.
  • Dishonesty – It is likely there will be cover ups and lies around the full extent of the individual’s gambling. They may attempt to hide what they are doing or lie about the negative consequences.

And what about signs of alcohol or substance abuse?

  • Frequent intoxication – drinking sessions become more regular and longer.
  • Risk taking while intoxicated – As the need for alcohol increases, alcohol will inevitably overlap into other areas of the sufferer’s life. They may start to drink and drive, drink at work or whilst looking after a child.
  • Developing alcohol withdrawal symptoms – These symptoms differ from a ‘hangover’ and can vary from mild shaking of the hands, anxiety and insomnia, to more severe including delirium tremens, hallucinations and alcoholic seizures.
  • Memory impairment – Alcohol affects areas of the brain that control the formation of new memories.
  • Denial and secrecy -This is the alcoholic brain’s way of protecting the addiction from being challenged and often subconscious.

Addressing this issue at work can be difficult to do, so here are three key steps for businesses to support staff who may be showing these signs of addiction:

  • Train managers to spot signs and triggers – Managers are your first line of defence, so make sure they’re skilled and prepared to help spot signs early.
  • Don’t underestimate the impact of storytelling – Often people can relate to those who have suffered similar experiences which can give them the confidence to open up.
  • Normalise discussions around addiction and recovery – Work towards an environment where people feel able to open up without fear of judgement and repercussions.
  • Help create a relapse prevention plan – While I would recommend doing this with a professional, here are some tips for what you should include if you help an employee create a relapse prevention plan.
Martin Preston
Martin Preston
Founder and CEO at Delamere | Website

Martin Preston is the Founder and CEO of Delamere, the UK’s only purpose-built addiction treatment and behavioural health clinic in Cheshire. Having battled with addiction for more than a decade himself, Martin now hopes to open new clinics and bring his ‘stop start grow bloom’ recovery programme to more people across the country.