Positive Workforce Drug Tests Increase for the First Time in a Decade

More U.S. workers are testing positive for drugs, especially methamphetamine.
More U.S. workers are testing positive for drugs, especially methamphetamine.

A shocking new report released by Quest Diagnostics reveals that the percentage of positive drug tests among American workers has increased for the first time in over a decade. Increased stress in the workplace, a lack of job security, and the trend of longer workdays can all play a role in increased substance use. As a result, more and more employees are turning to drugs as a way to cope.

Evaluating the Dirty Drug Screens

For their study, Quest Diagnostics looked at 8.5 million urine, oral fluid and hair workplace drug tests. Workforce categories evaluated included:

  • Employees who work for private companies
  • Employees subject to federal drug testing rules, including truck drivers, train operators, and airline workers
  • A combination of both groups

Breakdown of the Results

According to Quest’s research, the rise in positive drug tests is substantially due to marijuana and amphetamine-related results. Marijuana continues to be the most commonly detected illicit drug, with positivity in the combined U.S. workforce increasing by a staggering 6.2 percent. However, states with “recreational use” marijuana laws (Colorado and Washington) saw the percentage of positive drug tests increase by double digits.

Amphetamine positivity rates, on the other hand, have been on the rise for several years and are now at their highest levels on record. Additionally, methamphetamine positivity rates have reached their highest levels since 2007. In the U.S. general workforce, methamphetamine positivity in urine tests increased by 27 percent, oral fluid positivity increased by 50 percent, and hair testing positivity jumped by 55 percent.

What Does This Mean for Employers?

For employers who place workers in safety-sensitive roles (i.e. driving or production lines), impaired workers pose a risk, not only to themselves, but everyone around them. Conversely, impaired workers placed in customer service roles can quickly and permanently damage a company’s reputation. Employers also have to consider the negative effect drug users can have on the rest of the staff. In fact, a 2008 study found that 32 percent of workers polled admitted a co-worker’s use of drugs or alcohol had a negative impact on their job performance.

Drugs and Work Just Don’t Mix

On-the-job drug use creates a long list of problems. In addition to lost productivity, absenteeism, injuries, fatalities, theft, or low employee morale, drug abuse can cause problems at work including:

  • After-effects of substance use (withdrawal) affecting job performance
  • Preoccupation with obtaining and using substances while at work, interferes with attention/concentration
  • Illegal activities at work, especially selling or sharing drugs with other employees

Learn more about the side effects of drug abuse and addiction.

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