Positivity rate for workplace drug testing at highest rate in a decade

According to analysis of more than 10 million drug test results in the 2018 Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index, drug use by the U.S. workforce is at its highest level in more than a decade.

The positivity rate for drug tests was 4.2 percent in 2017, the same as in 2016, and the highest since 2004. This is a dramatic increase over the 3.5 percent positivity rate from 2012, which represented a thirty-year low.

“It’s unfortunate that we mark 30 years of the Drug-Free Workplace Act with clear evidence that drugs continue to invade the country’s workplaces. Not only have declines appeared to have bottomed out, but also in some drug classes and areas of the country drug positivity rates are increasing,” said Barry Sample, PhD, senior director, science and technology, Quest Diagnostics.

The report shared some key insights:

Cocaine positivity increased overall and jumped sharply in some areas. The positivity rate for cocaine increased for the fifth consecutive year in the general U.S. workforce across every specimen type. Double-digit year-over-year increases in at least four of the five past years were seen in the states of Nebraska (91% increase between 2016 and 2017), Idaho (88% increase), Washington (31%), Nevada (25%), Maryland (22% increase), and Wisconsin (13%).

Methamphetamine positivity skyrocketed in Midwest and South regions. An analysis of trends in the general U.S. workforce based on the four U.S. Census regions identified large increases of methamphetamine positivity rates.

Prescription opiates continue decline in workforce testing data. Nationally, the positivity rate for opiates in the general U.S. workforce in urine drug testing declined 17 percent between 2016 and 2017. Given the challenges the US is facing with opiate use, this data point may be the most surprising from the report.

Marijuana positivity is up in states with new legalization statutes. Marijuana positivity increased four percent in the general U.S. workforce (2.5% in 2016 versus 2.6% in 2017) and nearly eight percent in the safety-sensitive workforce (0.78% versus 0.84%). As we would suspect, increases were most striking in states that have enacted recreational use statues since 2016.

Despite many changes in this space over the last few years, it’s clear that there are a significant number of workers in the US showing at their workplaces ill-prepared to work. If a business doesn’t have an effective drug screening strategy in place, they’re putting themselves at incredible risk.

Interested in launching – or advancing – your drug screening strategy? Contact our experts.

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