Workforce drug positivity rates hit a 16-year high in 2019, with positive marijuana test rates climbing by double digits across almost all testing categories, according to Quest Diagnostics’ annual Drug Testing Index.
Positivity rates in the U.S. workforce increased in urine drug tests to 4.5%, the highest level since 2003, and more than 28% higher than the 30-year low of 3.5% that occurred from 2010 to 2012.
Marijuana tops list as opioid rates decline
Marijuana continues to take the top spot as most commonly detected illicit substance in all testing methods – urine, oral fluid and hair – and across the entire U.S. workforce, according to a Quest news release.
Positivity for marijuana increased by almost 11% in urine testing – 2.8% in 2018 compared to 3.1% in 2019 – and by 29% since 2015.
Opiate positivity in urine drug tests continued to decline in 2019, with a drop of more than 19%, from 0.31% in 2018 to 0.25% in 2019. Since 2015, opiate positivity dropped 49%.
Significant increases in certain industries
Several industries have seen significant increases in positive drug tests among their workers, with Retail Trade having the highest overall positivity rate for the past five years, climbing from 5.1% in 2015 to 5.5% in 2019.
The Other Services category also saw a 2019 5.5% positivity rate.
Accommodations and Food Service had the highest workforce positivity rate for marijuana with an increase of 65% over the past five years – 2.9% in 2015 compared to 4.8% in 2019.
Impact of COVID-19
Drug deaths increased by about 13% in the first few months of 2020, due in part to social isolation and other disruptions caused by COVID-19, Quest states.
Quest acknowledges workplace drug positivity rates were going in the wrong direction before the coronavirus pandemic, but “the enormous strain caused by COVID-19 may prove to be an accelerant on this disturbing trend.”