Report: Positive Employment Drug Tests Reach 16-Year High

A recent report found positive drug tests in the U.S. reached a 16-year high at the close of 2019. However, while the rate of positive drug tests increased overall, there was a decline in positive tests for certain substances including opioids.

Full story after the jump.

Positive employment drug tests reached a 16-year high in 2019 with cannabis positivity rates climbing 11% from 2018 to 2019, from 2.8% to 3.1%, respectively, according to an analysis by Quest Diagnostics. The study found cannabis positivity rates increased highest in the Midwest – 2.9% in 2018 to 3.3% in 2019 – and West where positivity rates increased 24% from 2.2% in 2018 to 4.1% in 2019.

The Midwest also saw rising rates in positive drug tests for methamphetamine – a 12% increase from 0.17% in 2015 to 0.19% in 2019 – and cocaine, which climbed 40% from 0.20% in 2015 to 0.28% in 2019. The West saw a 53% increase in positive drug tests for cocaine from 0.15% in 2015 to 0.23% in 2019, the analysis found.

Dr. Barry Sample, senior director of science and technology at Quest called the increasing positivity rates for methamphetamine and cocaine “a cause for concern” while noting “the national debate on drug misuse in the workforce has focused primarily on marijuana.”

“Marijuana continues to be an enduring presence in the U.S. workforce. Changing attitudes toward its use could pose heightened risks especially in safety-sensitive positions and those states exploring legalization.” – Sample, in a statement

Positive drug tests for opioids declined 19% nationally from 2018 to 2019 – 0.31% to 0.25%, respectively. The positivity rate for semi-synthetic opiates, like hydrocodone, dropped 26% from 0.50% in 2018 versus 0.37% in 2019 and more than 45 percent over five years – 0.68% in 2015 versus 0.37% in 2019. The positivity rate for oxycodone-type drugs saw a 21% decline from 0.43% in 2018 to 0.34% in 2019. The analysis found that positivity rates for oxycodone drugs fell nearly 55% from the 0.75% rate in 2015 to 0.34% in 2019.

Positivity rates for heroin also declined from 0.3% in 2018 to 0.2% in 2019 – representing a 50% decline since the 0.04% positivity rate in 2015 and 2016.

Sample attributed the rise, partly, to the “enormous strain” of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Organizations will need to consider the impact of COVID-19 not only on workplace safety but also as a health concern for their employees for some time to come,” he said.

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