New Study: U.S. Workers Testing Positive for Illicit Drug Use At Highest Level in a Decade
In 2015, positive results from workers tested by Quest Diagnostics rose for the third year in a row following decades according to data from millions of workplace drug tests administered by Quest Diagnostics Inc., one of the nation's largest medical-screening laboratories.
Detection of illicit drugs-from marijuana to heroin to methamphetamine-increased slightly both for the general workforce and the "safety-sensitive" workforce - defined as millions of truck drivers, pilots, ship captains, subway engineers, and other transportation workers. Employers are required to test those individuals at random, as well as in specific situations such as after an accident occurs.
Positive results are later discarded if a worker produces a doctor's prescription for a legal drug; but most reflect illicit use, driven by increased detection of amphetamines, cocaine and heroin.
The data, which is based on more than 9.5 million urine tests, mostly echoes broader statistics gathered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which surveys Americans about drug use every year.
The Agency Found:
- In 2014, the year of the most recent completed survey, about 10% of Americans over age 12 had used an illicit drug in the prior 30 days, the highest share since at least 2002.
- Positive tests declined to 3.5% in 2010 and stayed at that level until 2012, when it began to rise.
- The increases overlap with legislation in Colorado and Washington, where voters approved initiatives allowing the recreational use of marijuana in 2012. Since then, more than 20 other states have legalized that drug in some form.
- Marijuana "remains America's favorite illegal drug nearly half of all workplace positive tests are for marijuana, with the number holding steady from 2014.
- In states where marijuana is legal, employers have difficulty in identifying and hiring workers that will pass the drug test primarily because of marijuana positives.
- More troubling was an increase in detection of heroin. While the numbers are relatively small-less than one-tenth of 1% of all drug tests-heroin positives increased 146% in the general workforce between 2011 and 2015 and 84% in the safety-sensitive workforce.
- It is assumed that heroin use has increased in part because of a crackdown on abuse of prescription opiates such as hydrocodone and the cost of prescription drugs.
- The study found that detection of the two most common prescription opiates-hydrocodone and hydromorphone-fell steeply in 2015.
Our Team can help review your employment policies and procedures and create an effective pre-employment
drug and alcohol testing program or a "reasonable suspicion" |
testing policy for employees.
Note: If California expands laws regarding recreational use of
marijuana this November, an effective drug and alcohol policy
will be most important for your organization.