Dramatic Increase in Workplace Drug Use


Following years of declines, the percentage of employees in the combined U.S. workforce testing positive for drugs has steadily increased over the last three years to a 10-year high, according to an analysis of nearly 11 million workforce drug test results by Quest Diagnostics.

The Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index™ examines illicit drug use by America’s workforce based on an analysis of de-identified results of more than 9.5 million urine, 900,000 oral fluid and 200,000 hair laboratory-based tests performed nationally by the company for employers in 2015. The findings were unveiled at the Substance Abuse Program Administrators Association (SAPAA) annual conference.

Insights from the 2015 data show that the positivity rate for urine drug tests in the combined U.S. workforce increased to four percent. The 2015 positivity rate reflects a relative increase of 14 percent over the 10-year low of 3.5 percent observed in both 2010 and 2011.

Another notable trend is the rising positivity rate for post-accident urine drug testing in both the general U.S. and federally-mandated, safety-sensitive workforces. Post-accident positivity increased 6.2 percent in 2015 when compared to 2014 (6.9 percent versus 6.5 percent) and increased 30 percent since 2011 (5.3 percent). In addition, post-accident positivity for the safety-sensitive workforce has risen 22 percent during a five-year time period (2.8 percent in 2015 versus 2.3 percent in 2011).

In the general U.S. workforce, the rate of amphetamine, marijuana and heroin detection increased annually for the past five years in urine testing. Amphetamine positivity increased 44 percent and marijuana positivity increased 26 percent since 2011; almost half (45 percent) of individuals in the general U.S. workforce with a positive drug test for any substance in 2015 showed evidence of marijuana use.

Heroin positivity in that period increased 146 percent. Oxycodone positivity rate has declined annually since 2011, confirming previous research showing that opioid prescriptions have declined in 49 states since 2012.