Safety and OSHA News

Use of these drugs is up 18% among workers

New statistics about employee drug use are out, and they show an increase in usage of some drugs. Is it marijuana, cocaine, crack?

It’s none of those. Employee use of prescription opiates jumped 18% from 2008 to 2009 and has increased 40% from 2005 to 2009, according to Quest Diagnostics, Inc.

Also, 2009 post-accident drug tests found opiates up to four times more often than in pre-employment tests.

The Quest results are consistent with a recent report from the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services. The report showed a 111% increase in the estimated number of emergency department visits for nonmedical use of opioid analgesics from 2004-2008.

Quest notes that both prescribed use and misuse of opiates appear to be on the rise, and that’s something employers with safety-sensitive jobs should be aware of.

Semi-synthetic opiates had higher positive rates. Hydrocodone, the most prescribed generic drug for the past three years, registered a 1.3% positive rate in Quest’s 2009 general U.S. workforce data. Oxycodones showed a 1.0% positive rate and hydromorphone reached 0.82%. Naturally occurring opiates, such as codeine and morphine, had positive rates below 0.5%.

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  1. Hello, I am H S E Site leader at work. The report mentioned “Naturally occurring opiates, such as codeine and morphine, had positive rates below 0.5%” Where do they occur naturally, and how are they ingested? Do some people absorb or retain a higher percentage?
    Thank You,

  2. The natural stuff is grown in Afganistan with US assistance. Typically shot up or smoked depending on form.

  3. Correct Dave. The report’s term of “naturally occurring opiates” refers to street drugs such as herion, morphine, and others which are produced specifically for drug abusers in countrys such as Afganistan, Cambodia, Veitnam, Mexico, etc. The opioids termed as semi-synthetic are pharmacutical pain relievers which are legally or illegally prescribed. Our company has had a difficult time with random & shift wide drug testing due to the fact that opiates are spreading and overtaking Marijuana, Methamphetimines, and Cocaine as the drug of choice in the midwest. Add to that that there is a rise in pain management clinics throughout the region. Someone can get a referral from their family Dr to go to one of these clinics and basically tell the clinic Dr that they have chronic pain and be prescribed anything from Tylenol 3 w/codiene to Oxycontyn or even Morphine patches. I’m not suggesting that all pain management clinics are staffed by Dr feelgood, but there have been more than a few in my area convicted of criminal charges by writing thousands of prescriptions to people they have never even physically examined. We had to change our policy from “if tested positive, you must provide a valid prescription” to one that states all employees must report any prescribed narcotic to HR within 24 hours. This problem will only continue to grow.


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