As it turns out, 2017 was an interesting year for workplace drug testing in the United States. A recent analysis by Quest Diagnostics finds that drug use by Americans, particularly those in the workforce, is at its highest level in more than ten years. The analysis shows that positive tests for cocaine, methamphetamines, and marijuana are on the rise.
Not surprisingly, positive marijuana tests increased at a greater rate in states that have legalized the use of the drug recreationally.
The Quest study was based on the results of more than 10 million workplace drug tests. The positive screening rate was determined to be 4.2% which represents a substantial increase over the 2012 rate of 3.5%. In a statement about the analysis, Quest indicated that the 2012 rate represented the lowest positive test result rate in more than 30 years.
Quest goes on to suggest that the analysis finds distinct and changing patterns of drug use. In particular, cocaine and methamphetamines are testing positive in certain areas of the country, namely the South, the Northeast, and the Midwest. Meanwhile, the study found skyrocketing increases in positive marijuana tests in states that have legalized cannabis, including Nevada, California, Alaska, and Maine, among others.
Oregon, which legalized the recreational use of marijuana in 2014 has seen close to double the rate of positive marijuana tests in 5-panel drug tests and 10-panel drug tests used by employers. Quest reports that overall, the national rate of positive marijuana tests was about 2% in 2017.
Some details from the report include the following findings:
• Cocaine positive screenings increased for the fifth consecutive year.
• Nebraska, Idaho, Washington Nevada, Maryland, and Wisconsin are showing double-digit percentage increases in positive cocaine test results in urine drug tests, with Nebraska showing a 91% increase year over year.
• Positive marijuana tests also reveal a five-year upward trend, increasing nearly 8% in safety-sensitive workplaces.
In a release regarding the report, Quest’s Barry Sample, Ph.D., commented on Drug-Free Workplace efforts by saying, “These changing patterns and geographical variations may challenge the ability of employers to anticipate the ‘drug of choice’ for their workforce or where to best focus their drug prevention efforts to ensure a safe and healthy work environment.”
Officials at National Drug Screening, Inc (Melbourne, Florida) heard Dr. Samples report first hand at the Federal Transit Administration national conference on Thursday May 12, 2018. Joe Reilly, President of National Drug Screening, Inc commented “Dr Sample provided up to date data showing important trends in drug abuse among workers in the United States. Businesses across America should be paying careful attention to their drug free workplace policies.”
It’s clear that workplace drug testing is more important than ever, especially in safety-sensitive workplaces.
Is there any good news based on the Quest study? Possibly. The report suggests that American workers who test positive for opiates plummeted nearly 17% year over year when comparing 2017 to 2016. There are several potential reasons for this drop, including a nationwide initiative to decrease opioid addiction through the reduction of the unnecessary prescription of painkillers. Before 2017, medical boards, insurers, and state regulators began putting pressure on doctors who were over-prescribing opioids to their patients. Interestingly, one of the methods used to keep track of patients using opioids was through urine drug testing. The reduction in positive tests for prescribed and illegal opioids represents a bright spot in the report.