Rise of Illicit Drug Use in the Workplace

After a nearly 25 year decline of illicit drug use, recent numbers suggest that the number of Americans engaged in illicit drug use has risen over the last two years. According to the Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index (DTI), there has been a 9.3% increase in positive urine drug tests. The percent of urine tests that are positive for illicit drug use overall is now about 4.7%.

Commonly Used Illicit Drugs

In recent years, marijuana has become the drug of choice for the majority of employees. Researchers think that the rise in marijuana use over other substances among workers is likely a result of the decriminalization of the drug in many states. There is about a 14.3% year-over-year increase in marijuana positivity, according to the Quest Diagnostics DTI. Although marijuana use is legal in some states, many employees don’t realize that their employer may still prohibit use of the drug. If an employee undergoes a drug test and fails due to recent marijuana use, their employer may choose to terminate that employee’s job.

However, illicit drug use by workers is not limited to marijuana. Some commonly used substances include amphetamines, oxycodones and benzodiazepines. There has been a 7.2% year-over-year increase in amphetamines positivity, again according to the DTI. Because several of these drugs are prescription medications, employees who test positive and can prove they have a prescription for the medication are not typically penalized for having the drug in their system.

What Can Employers Do?

Employers generally prefer a sober workforce for several reasons. Sobriety makes the workplace safer, and it lessens  liability in the case of an accident. Instituting a drug-free workplace policy is one of the best ways to ensure that illicit drug use is not affecting the safety or efficiency of a business’ operations. By backing up this policy with random drug testing it is possible to protect the workplace and the organization from the multitude of problems that tend to stem from illicit drug use by employees.

Find your nearest ARCpoint Labs today for accurate, reliable drug and alcohol testing for your business.


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