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Drugs in the Workplace are at an All-Time High

For the longest time, drug use in the workplace has been on a decline, but that is unfortunately changing, as the number of those who have tested positive for drugs has, over the last three years, increased to their highest point in a decade.

Quest Diagnostics revealed that an analysis of 11 million drug tests performed by the company showed the fifth year in a row wherein individuals tested positive for heroin and amphetamines. Marijuana usage has increased as well, up 47 percent since 2013, but that’s not as surprising considering the number of states that are increasingly legalizing medical marijuana. To put this into perspective, about one in every 11 applicants tested positive for drugs on an oral fluid drug test.

Among the possible drug tests that can be performed on a job applicant, hair drug tests have tested positive for drugs most often, increasing seven percent in one year (2014 to 2015), up from 9.6 percent to 10.3. This is important because, per Quest, hair tests can provide a more complete history of an applicant’s drug use because it can trace any drugs the user has taken back to 90 days before the test is administered.

Urine tests only pick up recent or new drug use, showing positive results within one to three days after the user has taken something, and oral fluid tests show drugs that have been taken within the last 24 to 48 hours. The last time the positivity rate reached this high of a level (at or over four percent) was back in 2005, when it was just over four percent.

Here are some scary numbers. In the United States workforce, workers testing positive for amphetamines jumped up 44 percent since 2011, and while marijuana usage has only increased 26 percent within that time period, about half (45 percent) of all individuals who tested positive for drugs in 2015 tested positive for marijuana.

The worst, as is to be expected, is heroin, which has jumped up 146 percent during the same time period. Opioid prescriptions, on the other hand, have been on the decline since 2012 in almost all 50 states, with oxycodone usage dropping annually since 2011. These numbers provide good evidence that with the decrease in prescriptions being handed out by doctors, patients are turning to more illicit means (which is, more often than not, heroin) to reduce their suffering from chronic pain and other conditions. The rate of positivity for post-accident urine tests is rising, though, increasing 30 percent since 2011.

Mark de Bernardo, the executive director of Institute for a Drug-Free Workplace says that these numbers should “provide a wake-up call to employers,” and that, in response, they should try harder to fight substance abuse in the workplace, and to follow up and make sure that their efforts are actually having an effect.

The Drug Testing Index (DTI) examines the test results of workers who belong to three categories in particular: federally-mandated, safety-sensitive employees (like pilots, bus drivers, and nuclear power plant employees); the general workforce as a whole, and the combined U.S. workforce as a whole.