With overwork, redundancy and the current economic downturn exposing employees to unhealthy levels of stress, many people are turning to drugs and alcohol as a means of escape.

Up to 14 million working days are lost annually because of alcohol-related problems, costing British industry an estimated £2 billion a year.

Doctor Marco Procopio, head of the Addictions Treatment Programme (ATP) at The Priory Clinic in Hove, said: "Britons work longer hours than anyone else in Europe which has a direct impact on health.

"Many people feel they deserve a drink at the end of a hard days work but, for some with addictive tendencies, its the worst thing they can do.

"It is better to avoid nicotine, tranquillisers, caffeine and too much alcohol rather than increasing them."

Signs of problems with alcohol can include early morning drinking, hiding alcohol at home or in the workplace and drinking alone.

Other early indicators of potential addiction problems can be preoccupation with the "next drink" or drug, alongside diminished work performance.

Some major companies provide access to support services for employees, while many workers are left to find help and treatment for themselves.

The Priory Clinic offers residential programmes which give each person an individual treatment plan which may include detoxification, individual counselling, group therapy, coping mechanisms for abstinence, and attendance at 12-step AA meetings.

On November 21, the Priory Clinic will be offering a free seminar to occupational health professionals on how to recognise stress in the workplace.

Dr Procopio said: "The earlier the damaging effects of stress are dealt with, the better. The consequences of addiction can be devastating for everyone."

Anxiety is a feeling of apprehension or fear that lingers. The source for this uneasiness is not always known or recognized which adds to the distress.

Health experts say stress in small quantities can be good as it can make a person more productive. For example, the fear of a bad grade can make a student study harder.

Too much stress is unhealthy and counterproductive.

Persistent and unrelenting stress is called anxiety.

Anxiety is an emotion often accompanied by various physical symptoms.

These can include twitching or trembling, muscle tension, headaches, sweating, dry mouth or difficulty swallowing.

Some people also report dizziness, a rapid or irregular heart rate and increased rate of respiration.

Fatigue, irritable mood, sleeping difficulties, decreased concentration, sexual problems and nightmares are also common.

Some people are more sensitive to stress and are more likely to develop anxiety disorders or addictive problems with drink and drugs.

This can be caused either by genetic predispositions or by previous (particularly early childhood) exposure to certain stresses.

Other times it is simply a question of how stressful the current environment is.

Health experts also say stress can make back problems worse and vice versa.

They have issued a set of guidelines aimed at preventing problems developing from sitting at a desk for long periods.

The first piece of advice is to stop slouching. The spine gets its strength from its Sshape.

Whether you are standing up, sitting or lying down, you should make sure the back keeps this natural curve.

People who use the phone a lot are advised to wear a telephone headset. Cradling the phone between neck and shoulder causes severe muscle tension.

Your work station should be set up to suit you. You should be able to reach everything without stretching and items such as the computer screen should be at the right height.

Get rid of clutter on your desk and do not stretch and twist to reach things.

You should be able to stetch your legs out under your desk without any trouble.

If working in a static position, take a short break and move around every 20 minutes.

Occasionally standing up to take a phone call can also help.

The Priory Clinic is based at 22-24 Sackville Gardens, Hove, and can be contacted on 01273 747464.