Last updated: November 27, 2023
In 2019, we were heralding the fact that death due to opioid overdose was down for the first time in twenty years. Three short years later, statistics show that positive drug test results among the American workforce reached their highest peak since 2001. That’s an increase of 30% from the all-time low in drug test positivity between 2010 and 2012.
The news hit last spring when Quest Diagnostics, the world’s leading provider of diagnostic information services, released its annual Drug Testing Index (DTI) report. The data used for the study was based on more than 11 million urine, hair, and oral fluid deidentified drug test results. The results were gathered between January and December 2021.
Concerned employers want insight
The Quest study can be beneficial to employers who want to gain insight into workforce drug use. Creating safe work environments is crucial to attracting and retaining employees in the midst of a time when many employers are having a hard time getting past operating on a skeleton crew.
The combined U.S. workforce consists of drug test results from both the safety-sensitive and general workforces. The general workforce data consisted of mostly company-policy testing by private employers. Safety-sensitive data includes all federally mandated employees in the transportation industry including the following workers:
- Truck drivers
- Train conductors
Positive test results in the federally mandated, safety-sensitive workforce increased each year over the last five years.
“Our Drug Testing Index reveals several notable trends, such as increased drug positivity rates in the safety-sensitive workforce, including those performing public safety and national security jobs, as well as higher rates of positivity in individuals tested after on-the-job accidents,” said Barry Sample, Ph.D., Senior Science Consultant for Quest Diagnostics.
Don’t look the other way
Employers who are having a tough time filling positions and, then, keeping them filled, may be tempted to look the other way where some things are considered.
We can never overlook drug use nor can we push it under the rug. That’s not in the people who make up the combined workforce’s best interest. The majority of employees don’t use drugs and shouldn’t have to worry about being in an accident caused by someone who does. In workplaces where employees don’t feel safe, productivity suffers and company morale is low.
Moreover, the word is sure to get out and you’ll actually attract workers who abuse drugs.
What’s the word on weed?
Based on more than six million urine tests, marijuana use in the general workforce had increased by 8.3%. Moreover, positivity for marijuana in the general workforce increased by 50% over the past five years. The Accommodation and Food Service industry had the highest increase. However, when you think about the side effects of marijuana, it isn’t really a big surprise.
Positive test results for marijuana occurred in all industries.
There are those that say this should be expected due to the legalization of the drug in states across the nation. As a matter of fact, some employers are quietly dropping marijuana from their drug tests altogether.
Still, for those employers who choose to continue testing for marijuana, a positive test result is likely to lead to immediate termination.
Is meth madness ending?
Actually, we’ve still got a long way to go. According to the study, methamphetamine positivity decreased by 50% in the Health Care and Social Assistance industry over the last 5 years. That is something to celebrate, however, the Retail industry suffered a 55% increase in the same time frame.
Opioids aren’t obliterated yet
The news is encouraging though because according to the Quest DTI:
- Positivity for codeine and morphine decreased 56.4% over the past five years.
- Hydrocodone and hydromorphone positivity decreased by 37.3% in the last five years.
- Oxycodone positivity decreased 52.5% over the same time frame.
Cocaine use up in Safety-Sensitive workforce
For the first time in five years, cocaine use is up among the safety-sensitive workforce increasing by 5%. However, its popularity in the general workforce is losing its grip because 30% fewer people tested positive for the drug over the same five-year period.
Gauging our next move
The DTI allows employers of the safety-sensitive and general workforces to keep a proverbial finger on the pulse of drug use in the workplace. Seeing where drug use has fallen provides a sense of hope that we’re making headway.
We have to keep educating people about the dangers of drug abuse. Providing classes for employees periodically could cause someone to realize that he needs to seek help. It will also make other employees aware of the horrific cycle in which a drug addict lives.
Lastly, education will teach your employees what signs of impairment look like. Instruct employees to report any suspicious activity to their immediate supervisors.
It could save a life.
Drug-free programs play an important part in the war on drugs. A company that promotes a drug-free workplace is making it known where they stand. Drug abusers are less likely to apply for positions in a company that drug tests.
If your company doesn’t participate in a drug-free program, perhaps you need to call a supervisory meeting and decide whether or not you will start putting one in place.
We’ll give you a nudge in the right direction—the answer is yes.