Drug-testing company Quest Diagnostics says the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t cause a decrease in marijuana use in the general (non-safety-sensitive) U.S. workforce.
In its analysis of more than seven million urine tests in 2020, Quest says the overall positive rate for marijuana in the total U.S. workforce was down only slightly – 4.4% compared to 4.5% in 2019. The 2019 rate was the highest in 16 years.
For federally mandated, safety-sensitive workers, the rate declined to 2.2% from 2.4% in 2019. The decline among this group of workers is what contributed to the slight decline in the total workforce.
The 2.2% rate was 10% higher than the rate was just five years ago.
In the general U.S. workforce, the positive rate was 12% higher than five years ago.
Positive rates for most drug categories, other than marijuana, declined or remained flat in the total U.S. workforce over the past five years.
“Driven largely by surging rates of marijuana general U.S. workforce positives and steady rates of amphetamines positives, the rate of drug positivity remained stubbornly high, despite seismic shifts to the workplace caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr. Barry Sample, Quest’s senior director of science and technology.
“Our data suggest that marijuana positivity has increased sharply nationwide since states began to legalize marijuana in 2021,” Sample said. “However, it appears that states where medical marijuana use alone is legal are not experiencing much higher rates of increase than states where neither medical nor recreational use is legal.”
Other categories down or flat
The positive rate for amphetamines (including methamphetamine) held steady at 1.1% each year.
Here are the stats for positive rates in the general U.S. workforce:
- cocaine declined 18.5%
- semi-synthetic opiates (hydrocodone and hydromorphone) declined 10.8%
- oxycodone declined 14.7%
- benzodiazepines declined 9.3%, and
- ecstasy (MDMA/MDA) increased by 25% (although the overall positive rate remains very low, at 0.01%).
Rates down in safety-sensitive jobs
Urine drug test results for the federally mandated, safety-sensitive workforce declined in all drugs categories except PCP which remained flat.
Of note, positivity for marijuana declined 10.2%, cocaine declined 20%, semi-synthetic opiates declined 14.3%, and oxycodone declined 19.2%.