Positive drug test results in the workplace reached the highest rate in two decades in 2021, according to Quest Diagnostics’ annual Drug Testing Index.
The rate of positive drug test results in the U.S. workforce reached its highest last year since 2001, the report states.
Positive test result rates were up more than 30% in 2021 from an all-time low seen in 2010-2012.
That information is based on more than 11 million urine, hair and oral fluid drug test results collected during calendar year 2021.
The overall positivity rate for the combined U.S. workforce – which includes private, federal and federally regulated workers – was up in 2021 to 4.6% compared to 4.4% in 2020 and up 31.4% from the low of 3.5% of a decade ago. That data is based on nine million samples collected during 2021.
Positivity in the federally mandated, safety-sensitive workforce, which was based on almost 2.7 million urine drug tests, stayed even from 2020 to 2021 at 2.2%
In the general workforce, positivity increased 1.8% to 5.6% in 2021. It was 12% higher than in 2017 and has gone up in each of the last five years.
Rates for post-accident testing higher than for pre-employment
Urine positivity rates for post-accident testing increased at a greater rate than pre-employment testing over the past five years.
That’s due to higher positivity on post-accident tests for marijuana, cocaine and semi-synthetic opiates.
In the general workforce, pre-employment positivity increased 17.4% from 2017 to 2021, while post-accident positivity increased 26%.
For federally mandated, safety-sensitive positions, pre-employment positivity increased 9.5% since 2017 compared to post-accident positivity which increased 41.9% in 2021.
“The increase in post-accident positivity is alarming and suggests more drug-associated accidents may be occurring even with employers with pre-employment drug testing in place,” said Dr. Barry Sample, Senior Science Consultant for Quest.
“The high cost of work accidents cannot be understated,” Sample said. “While employers often think of accidents in terms of wage and productivity losses, medical expenses and administrative expenses, accidents also impact morale, competitiveness and recruiting.”
Increases in specific categories for federally regulated workers
There was an increase in positivity rates in specific federally mandated, safety-sensitive testing categories with marijuana seeing an increase of 8.9%, from 0.79% in 2020 to 0.86% in 2021.
Amphetamines also saw an increase from 0.64% in 2020 to 0.69% in 2021, an increase of 7.8%.
Positive test results for cocaine increased as well, up 5% from 0.20% in 2020 to 0.21% in 2021.
Positive marijuana tests up in general workforce
Based on six million urine tests, marijuana continues its upward climb in the general U.S. workforce.
Positive test results for the drug increased 8.3% from 3.6% in 2020 to 3.9% in 2021, the highest positivity rate ever reported in Quest’s annual Drug Testing Index.
Over the past five years, positivity for marijuana in the general workforce increased 50% from 2.6% in 2017 to 3.9% in 2021.
Marijuana positivity increased across all industries from 2017 to 2021, with the Accommodation and Food Service industry having the highest positivity rate at 7.5%. That’s an increase of 114.3% over the past five years.
Retail had highest positivity rate
The Retail industry had the highest positivity rate in 2021 with a 7% increase compared to 2020 data and an increase of 34.6% since 2017.
Retail also experienced the only year-over-year rise in methamphetamine positivity from 2017 to 2021 of 55.6%, up from 0.09% in 2017 to 0.14% in 2021.