Safety and OSHA News

Newer tests proven to cut cheating on drug testing

To watch or not to watch: That used to be the question when it came to collecting urine samples for drug testing. That problem may be eliminated with newer screening tests, according to Quest Diagnostics, which has released new data on positive rates for applicants and workers.

Quest’s Drug Testing Index (DTI) shows that advances in oral fluid testing technology implemented in late 2011 have led to more positives for marijuana use than using urine testing, which is more prone to cheating.

“The higher oral fluid detection rate for marijuana strongly suggests that observed oral fluid collection curbs evasive donor behavior,” said Dr. Barry Sample, Director of Science and Technology for Quest. “Simply put, it is extremely difficult to cheat an oral fluid collection when someone is observing.”

Oral fluid specimens are collected when applicants or employees place a swab in their mouth under direct observation of the drug test administrator.

Urine specimen collection is unobserved, which allows people who want to evade detection to cheat. Sometimes they add substances to their own urine. Others turn in someone else’s sample. There have even been devices to help men pass observed urine collection, although they’ve now been outlawed.

Both urine and oral testing are highly effective in detecting recent drug use.

The oral fluid positive rate for marijuana was 70% higher than that of urine (3.4% vs. 2.0%) in the first half of 2012, the period for which the most recent statistics are available from Quest.

More applicants test positive

Overall, Quest says pre-employment drug test positives increased by 5.7% from 2011 to the first half of 2012.

However, random drug testing among the U.S. general workforce was down 5.8% comparing the same two periods.

Marijuana remains the most commonly detected drug. Urine testing for the U.S. general workforce turns up a 2.0% positive rate. The next highest is amphetamines with a 0.86% positive rate. Opiates comes in third.

Amphetamine use continues its five-year upward trend. In urine testing, the amphetamine positivity rate increased 11.7%.

Cocaine use is decreasing. In the first half of 2012, the cocaine positive rate was down 14.6% compared to 2011.

Overall positive rate stalls

After seeing a significant drop in overall positive drug test rates from 1988 (13.6%) through 2005 (4.1%) for the overall U.S. workforce, that number has stalled in recent years:

  • 2006: 3.8%
  • 2007: 3.8%
  • 2008: 3.6%
  • 2009: 3.6%
  • 2010: 3.5%
  • 2011: 3.5%, and
  • first half of 2012: 3.5%.

But Quest’s statistics show that when workers know they’ll be subject to occasional testing, they are less likely to be drug users. As we already pointed out, random drug testing positives are down in the most recent numbers. And the positive rate for federally mandated, safety-sensitive jobs is much lower than that of the general workforce: 1.7% vs. 4.1%.

Positive rates are much higher when the reason for the drug test is for cause in the general workforce:

  • for cause: 26.1%
  • follow-up: 6.5%
  • returned to duty: 5.5%
  • post accident: 5.4%
  • random: 4.9%
  • pre-employment: 3.7%, and
  • periodic: 1.3%.

How does your region compare?

Quest’s DTI report also sorts its testing information by state and region, including maps of the U.S. showing overall positive rates for:

  • all drugs
  • amphetamines
  • cocaine
  • marijuana positive rates
  • opiates, and
  • phencyclidine.

Quest’s latest DTI is based on more than 3.4 million urine and 340,000 oral fluid tests performed from January through June 2012.

Increase awareness at your company

Do all these statistics make you think, maybe it’s time to review your company’s drug policy?

There are free resources to do just that on the web from the U.S. Department of Labor. DOL’s Drug-Free Workplace Policy Builder guides you through the different elements of a policy, asking you to choose among various options that are appropriate for your workplace.

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