Failed US workplace drug tests hit 12-year high

Emily Gray Brosious

May 24, 2017

U.S. failed drug testing hits 12 year high(Photo credit: Ron Wurzer/Getty Images)

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In 2016, American workers tested positive for drug use at the highest rate in 12 years, according to The Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index (DTI) released earlier this month.

Quest Diagnostics, a leading U.S. drug-testing services provider, tested nearly nine million urine samples from January to December 2016. Approximately 4.2 percent of those tests came up positive for drug use. That’s up from 4 percent in 2015, and it’s the highest annual positivity rate since 2004.

“This year’s findings are remarkable because they show increased rates of drug positivity for the most common illicit drugs across virtually all drug test specimen types and in all testing populations,” Barry Sample, Ph.D., senior director of science and technology at Quest Diagnostics, said in a release.

According to the company’s findings, cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine detection increased broadly across the U.S. workforce in 2016.

Other findings:

  • Cocaine detection saw a dramatic 12 percent increase in 2016, reaching a seven-year high with 0.28 percent of workers testing positive for the drug.
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  • Methamphetamine detection increased 64 percent among the general U.S. workforce between 2012 (0.48 percent positivity) and 2016 (0.63 percent positivity).
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  • Heroin detection plateaued among the general U.S. workforce in 2016, and prescription opiate detection declined.
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  • Marijuana urine detection rates among the general U.S. workforce increased 4 percent from 2015 to 2016, with 2.5 percent of U.S. workers testing positive for the substance in 2016.
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  • Marijuana urine detection rates were higher among workers in Colorado (2.9 percent positivity) and Washington (3.08 percent positivity) – where the drug is legal for adult use – than detection rates among the general workforce in 2016 (2.5 percent).

Despite the 12-year highs, failed workplace drug testing rates were significantly lower in 2016 than any year during the 1990s, when failed drug tests ranged from 4.6 percent to 11 percent, according to Quest Diagnostics’ records.

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See also:

Drug testing companies have a lot to lose if marijuana is legalized

Marijuana advocates push to reform workplace drug testing laws

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