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Jaxon Reed
Jaxon Reed

US Workers Test Positive For Illicit Drug Use, Highest In A Decade _VERIFIED_

The proportion of U.S. workers who tested positive for drugs in urine last year climbed 4.5% to the highest level in 16 years, according to Quest Diagnostics. Last year's level was more than 28% higher than the 30-year low of 3.5% recorded between 2010 and 2012.

US Workers Test Positive for Illicit Drug Use, Highest In A Decade

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The greatest jump in positivity has been in employees testing positive for marijuana, which climbed 11% in 2019. Among workers, 3.1% tested positive for marijuana last year and the drug continues to top the list of the most commonly detected illicit substances, Quest stated. In the Midwest, the marijuana positivity rate last year outpaced the national rate, increasing to 3.3% in 2019. It did the same in the West, with a positivity rate of 4.1% in 2019.

SECAUCUS, N.J., March 30, 2022 /PRNewswire/ -- The rate of positive drug test results among America's workforce reached its highest rate last year since 2001 and was up more than 30% in the combined U.S. workforce from an all-time low in 2010-2012, according to a new analysis released today by Quest Diagnostics (NYSE: DGX), the world's leading provider of diagnostic information services.

The overall positivity rate in the combined U.S. workforce, based on nearly nine million urine drug tests collected between January and December 2021, was up in 2021 to 4.6% compared to 4.4% in 2020 and up 31.4 percent from the all-time low of 3.5% just 10 years ago (2010-2012). The combined U.S. workforce includes the general U.S. workforce of mostly company-policy testing by private employers as well as the federally mandated, safety-sensitive workforce, which includes federal employees and the transportation and nuclear power industries, and can include workers such as pilots, truck drivers, train conductors and others required to drug test under federal legislation.

"It is important for workers to know that certain employers are required to test for marijuana under federal law and if they use marijuana, they can still lose their jobs," said Dr. Sample. "People who use drugs during working hours or before work can still be impaired and dangerous to co-workers, the general public and themselves."

In oral fluid testing, overall workforce drug positivity decreased, but increased for marijuana, methamphetamine and cocaineIn 2021, positivity in the general U.S. workforce based on oral fluid was 7.3% in 2021, a decline of 46.3% compared to 2020 (13.6%) and 29.8% compared to 2017 (10.4%). The drop in oral fluid-positivity (13.6% in 2020 versus 7.3% in 2021) was driven by a decline in the number of pre-employment tests that included marijuana. However, for those tests that included marijuana, the oral-fluid drug positivity rate for marijuana was 14.8% in 2021, an increase of 20.3 percent compared to 2020 (12.3%) and up 68.2% over five years (8.8% in 2017). At the same time, the positivity rate for cocaine increased 46.6% (0.58% in 2020 versus 0.85% in 2021), its highest spike since 2006, and methamphetamine increased 26.4% (0.53% in 2020 versus 0.67% in 2021), exhibiting year-over-year increases for the last 5 years.

"Drug use affecting the work environment is a complex problem that is not going away," said Jenny Burke, Vice President of Impairment Practice, National Safety Council. "When workers use impairing substances, it can create incidents that compromise the safety of other workers and, in some cases, the general public. Employers should have the right and ability to maintain a substance-free workplace and the use of drug testing, including oral fluid in addition to urine. NSC supports policies and procedures that ensure safe and healthy workplaces."

Pre-employment drug tests are meant to be a deterrent in hiring workers whose drug-use behavior may cause unsafe work conditions or poor work performance. Post-accident testing is conducted to evaluate whether drug use may have played a role in the workplace incident prompting the drug test.

The strengths of the DTI analysis include its large, nationally representative sample size, longitudinal monitoring, a testing population that is generally reflective of the U.S. workforce and the quality of the company's drug testing services to confirm positive results. Limitations include analysis only of employers that perform drug testing with the company, and a lack of exact cross-specimen comparisons due to variations in substances for which employers test. Quest Diagnostics has analyzed annual workplace drug testing data since 1988 and publishes the findings as a public service.

Based on an analysis of nine million drug tests conducted in 2019, Quest determined that 5.3 percent of the general workforce tested positive for illicit drugs (up from 5.1 percent in 2018) and another 2.4 percent of workers in safety-sensitive positions regulated by federal law did so. That's down from 2.7 percent in 2018. Those in safety-sensitive jobs include pilots; rail, bus and truck drivers; and workers in nuclear power plants.

The combined data from the general and safety-sensitive workforce demographics show that, overall, 4.5 percent of the U.S. workforce had positive drug screens in 2019, the highest such rate since 2003 but a far cry from Quest's first drug-testing analysis in 1988, when the drug positivity rate was 13.6 percent.

"The report provided encouraging results on the types of testing triggering positive results," Cano said. "As in prior years, for-cause testing produced the highest percentage of positive results, followed by follow-up and return-to-duty testing." Pre-employment and random testing produced the least positive tests.

Quest Diagnostics released its annual Drug Testing IndexTM in May.(1,2) It revealed that the American workforce had the highest positivity rate for illicit drugs in the past 12 years. Cocaine continued its upward trend for the fourth consecutive year. Marijuana positivity increased dramatically with notable increases in Colorado and Washington, both states that have legalized marijuana. Amphetamines (which includes amphetamine and methamphetamine) positivity continued its year-over-year upward trend, increasing more than eight percent, with heroin positivity increasing an astounding 147% over the last five years.

Researchers analyzed more than 10 million drug test results and found that 4.2 percent of the combined U.S. workforce (both the general workforce and those who undergo federally mandated drug testing) tested positive for the second straight year. That is the highest percentage of positive tests since 2004 (4.5 percent). It was at a 30-year low of 3.5 percent as recently as 2012.

Yes. A person with a positive anti-HCV test is susceptible to future HCV infections. People with ongoing risk factors, such as those who currently inject drugs and those who have previously tested anti-HCV positive and HCV RNA negative, should receive periodic HCV RNA testing.

Retail workers tested positive for illicit drugs at the highest rate among industries last year while transportation and warehousing posted the sharpest increase in positive results, according to a first-ever industry breakdown of drug use in the American workforce provided exclusively to USA TODAY.

Some industries, such as retail and accommodation and food services, which had among the highest positive rates in the Quest study, also have relaxed their drug testing as they struggle to find workers, experts say.

Quest, a leading drug-testing provider, announces the rate of positive results annually based on an analysis of 10 million urine tests. Most of the tests are for job applicants, though some are given to workers after accidents or based on suspicion, for example.

In May, Quest released the overall results that showed the share of positive drug tests was 4.2 percent for the second consecutive year, the highest level in more than a decade. The positives for cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana climbed, while the rate for opiates dropped sharply amid state crackdowns on excessive opioid prescriptions.

But an analysis of that data expected to be released Wednesday marks the first time Quest has broken it down by industry. In retail, 5.3 percent of tests were positive, up from 4.7 percent in 2015, and the highest among the 16 industries studied. Since 2015, positive tests in retail have risen from 2.7 to 3.2 percent for marijuana and from 0.14 to 0.2 percent for cocaine.

AutoNation, the giant auto dealer with 27,000 employees, stopped rejecting job applicants based on a positive marijuana test in late 2016. It still screens out people who test positive for other drugs.

Many employers in restaurants, hotels, light industrial and professional and business services are also scrapping drug tests as they struggle to find workers, Reidy says. Most firms in those sectors no longer test, he estimates, a sharp reversal from several years ago. And, he says, about a third of firms that still test are rethinking their policies.

Amy Glaser, senior vice president of staffing firm Adecco, estimates one in four employers are loosening drug or background checks in the competitive labor market, especially for warehouse, hotel and clerical workers. Demand has exploded for warehouse workers amid the growth of Amazon and other online shopping services

Members of fraternities and sororities have some of the highest rates of substance use on college campuses. Compared with nonmembers, fraternity and sorority members are more likely to use alcohol, cannabis, and other drugs, as well as binge drink more frequently and smoke cigarettes, (38, 39). Members also suffer from more negative consequences from substance use compared with nonmembers, including a higher prevalence of driving under the influence, being physically injured, experiencing memory loss, and having unprotected sex (40, 41). Males who live in fraternity houses during college not only have a heightened risk of binge drinking but are also at higher risk of an alcohol use disorder later in adulthood (45% reporting symptoms that meet criteria) (42). Living in a fraternity or sorority house is also associated with a higher prevalence of cigarette smoking (38). Students who engage in substance use behaviors during high school are more likely to join fraternities and sororities when they enter college (43). Male students demonstrate a greater increase in alcohol use after pledging into fraternities, compared with nonmembers (44). Members who are more actively involved or who have taken leadership positions are also more likely to hold positive thoughts about alcohol use, including the facilitation of bonding between brothers, having fun, and enhancing sexual appeal (45). Not surprisingly, students who later disaffiliate with Greek life demonstrate a decrease in heavy drinking and alcohol-related consequences (46).


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