Driven by increases in cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana, drug use by the American workforce remains at its highest rate in more than a decade, according to a new analysis released by Quest Diagnostics, the world’s leading provider of diagnostic information services.
Nationally, the positivity rate for the combined U.S. workforce held steady at 4.2 percent in 2017, the same as in 2016, but a dramatic increase over the 3.5 percent positivity rate from 2012, which represented a thirty-year low. The analysis of 2017 data also suggests shifting patterns of drug use, with cocaine and amphetamines positivity surging in some areas of the country and marijuana positivity rising sharply in states with newer recreational use statutes. Prescription opiate positivity rates declined dramatically on a national basis.
The findings were unveiled in the Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index™ (DTI), an analysis of national workplace drug positivity trends based on the company’s de-identified laboratory data. The DTI has revealed insights into drug use in the United States since the Drug-Free Workplace Act was signed into law in 1988. In 1988, the DTI analysis found that the overall drug positivity rate among American workers was 13.6 percent.
“It’s unfortunate that we mark 30 years of the Drug-Free Workplace Act with clear evidence that drugs continue to invade the country’s workplaces. Not only have declines appeared to have bottomed out, but also in some drug classes and areas of the country drug positivity rates are increasing,” said Barry Sample, PhD, senior director, science and technology, Quest Diagnostics. “These changing patterns and geographical variations may challenge the ability of employers to anticipate the ‘drug of choice’ for their workforce or where to best focus their drug prevention efforts to ensure a safe and healthy work environment.”
The main points pulled from the 2018 report are:
- Cocaine positivity increases overall, jumps sharply in some areas – Double-digit year-over-year increases in at least four of the five past years were seen in the states of Nebraska (91% increase between 2016 and 2017), Idaho (88% increase), Washington (31%), Nevada (25%), Maryland (22% increase), and Wisconsin (13%).
- Methamphetamine positivity skyrockets in Midwest and South regions – Between 2013 and 2017, methamphetamine positivity increased: 167 percent in the East North Central division of the Midwest; 150 percent in the Middle Atlantic division of the Northeast, and 140 percent in the South Atlantic division of the South.
- Prescription opiates continue decline in workforce testing data – The positivity rate for opiates in the general U.S. workforce in urine drug testing declined 17 percent between 2016 and 2017.
- Marijuana positivity is up in states with new legalization statutes – Increases in positivity rates for marijuana in the general U.S. workforce were most striking in states that have enacted recreational use statues since 2016. Those states include: Nevada (43%), Massachusetts (14%) and California (11%).