U.S. 2018 Positivity Drug Test Rate Hits 14-Year High
The rate of U.S. general workforce drug positivity hit a 14-year high in 2018, according to a new drug testing analysis released April 11 by Quest Diagnostics.
Quest Diagnostics said the rate of positive urine tests increased nearly 5% (4.2% in 2017 versus 4.4% in 2018) and are now more than 25% higher than the 30-year low of 3.5% recorded between 2010 and 2012. The positivity rate in 2004 was 4.5%.
Marijuana continues to top the list of the most commonly detected illicit substances across all workforce categories, including such federally mandated safety-sensitive workers as DOT truck and bus drivers, Quest said. Marijuana use was driving the increase, as positivity rates for opiates and cocaine both decreased.
“Our in-depth analysis shows that marijuana is not only present in our workforce, but use continues to increase,” Barry Sample, PhD, senior director of science and technology for Quest, said in a statement. “As marijuana policy changes, and employers consider strategies to protect their employees, customers and general public, employers should weigh the risks that drug use, including marijuana, poses to their business.”
Hair testing positivity rates for drug testing done with hair samples was significantly higher for the general U.S. workforce than for urine tests, according to Quest. For 160,000 drug tests using hair samples, the positivity rate was 10.9% in 2018, up from 10.3% in 2017, an increase of 5%.
Similarly, for the safety-sensitive workforce, marijuana urine testing positivity grew nearly 5% between 2017 (0.84%) and 2018 (0.88%) and nearly 24% since 2014 (0.71%).
In the safety-sensitive workforce, positivity for post-accident urine testing jumped more than 51% year-over-year (3.1% in 2017 versus 4.7% in 2018) and increased by nearly 81% between 2014 and 2018. The jump in 2018 largely was driven by the addition of prescription opiates to the panel, where the post-accident positivity for the semi-synthetic opiates (hydrocodone and/or hydromorphone) and for oxycodones (oxycodone and/or oxymorphone) was 1.1% and 0.77%, respectively.
“Increases in post-accident positivity among safety-sensitive workers should serve as a warning to employers that employee drug use may increase the risk of workforce accidents or injuries” said Kimberly Samano, scientific director for Quest.
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