Safety and OSHA News

Positive worker drug tests rise for third year in a row

An annual report shows drug use in the U.S. workforce has risen to the highest level in nearly a decade. 

The Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index says the positive test rate for 9.5 million urine drug tests in the combined U.S. workforce increased to 4.0% in 2015 from 3.9% in 2014. The rate has risen for three years in a row. The rate had reached a 10-year low in 2010 and 2011 at 3.5%. It was 4.1% in 2005.

The rate rose in both the general U.S. workforce and those employees in safety-sensitive positions where testing is required by federal law.

Another trend is the rising positive rate for post-accident urine drug testing both in the general U.S. and federally mandated, safety-sensitive workforces. Post-accident positives reached 6.9% in 2015, up from 6.5% in 2014. The rate was 5.3% in 2011. Post-accident positives in the safety-sensitive workforce was 2.8% in 2015 compared to 2.3% in 2011.

The increase in drug use extends to several different classes of drugs, according to Quest:

  • amphetamine use increased 44%
  • marijuana use increased 26%, and
  • heroin use increased 147%.

Robert DuPont, former director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse called the large increase in heroin positives “disturbing.”

Test positives for certain prescription opiates declined.

Some other findings from the annual Quest report:

  • In 1989, the first year for the Quest report, the positive rate was 12.7%; the rate has been at or below 4.5% since 2002
  • By reason for testing, positives ranged from a high of 31.9% “for cause,” to a low of 1.6% for periodic testing, and
  • Positive rates by type of drug ranged from a high of 2.4% for marijuana to a low of 0.2% for PCP.
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  1. […] workers. In 1989, the first year the Quest report was published, the positive test rate was 12.7 percent, more than triple the latest rate reported for […]

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