Data Shows New Increase in U.S. Workers Testing Positive for Illicit Drugs

2016-increase-in-drug-use-workplaceRecent data taken from millions of workplace-related drug tests shows that U.S. workers testing positive for illicit drug use is now at its highest level in a decade.

Detection of illicit drugs— ranging from marijuana to heroin to methamphetamine—increased both for the general workforce and the “safety-sensitive” workforce, which includes those operating large machinery such as truck drivers, pilots, subway engineers, ship captains and other transportation workers.

Last year, 4% of worker drug tests were positive overall. Among safety-sensitive workers, positive tests rose from 1.7% to 1.8%. In the general workforce, positive tests rose from 4.7% to 4.8%.

The data, gathered by Quest Diagnostics, is based on more than 9.5 million urine tests, generally mirrors broader statistics gathered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which surveys Americans regarding drug use every year. The agency found that in 2014, about 10% of Americans over age 12 had used an illicit drug in the prior 30 days, the highest share since at least 2002.

The data dates back to 1988, when 13.6% of U.S. workers’ drug tests came back positive, which resulted in Ronald Reagan signing the Drug-Free Workplace Act. Testing also became more common as a workplace practice for all types of jobs in order to be hired.

The majority of positive tests declined to a low in 2010 (3.5%) and remained at that level until 2012, when it began to rise. The increases overlap with the 2012 legislation in Colorado and Washington, allowing the recreational use of marijuana. More than 20 other states have legalized that drug in some form since. Nearly half of positive tests reflect marijuana use.

An increase in detection of heroin causes greater concern. Heroin tests with a positive result have increased 146% in the general workforce between 2011 and 2015 and 84% in the safety-sensitive workforce. Due to a crackdown on abuse of prescription opiates such as hydrocodone, drug users often turn to heroin. However, the amount of tests indicating a positive result for the two most common prescription opiates—hydrocodone and hydromorphone—fell drastically in 2015.

ARCpoint Labs – Why Test Employees for Drugs?

Substance-abusing employees may cost your business more time, money and headache in the long run. Drug-using employees, compared to non-using employees tend to:

  • Have higher turnover rates
  • File more workers’ compensation claims and have higher insurance premiums
  • Be late or absent during the work week
  • Get involved in an accident
  • Lose efficiency and productivity

Workplace Drug and Alcohol Testing

To keep your workplace running smoothly, consider drug and alcohol testing. ARCpoint Labs offers many workplace testing solutions for you. If your business is in need of a reliable and accurate workplace drug testing program, please contact ARCpoint Labs today.

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