2019Drug Testing

U.S. Workforce Drug Testing Positivity Rate Highest Since 2004

Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

The drug testing positivity rate for the U.S. workforce hit a fourteen-year high in 2018, increasing nearly five percent in urine drug tests – 4.4 percent in 2018 versus 4.2 percent in 2017 – and climbing to the highest level since the 4.5 percent attained in 2004, according to analysis released by Quest Diagnostics.

U.S. Drug Testing Positivity Rate Highest Since 2004

The findings of the Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index™ – which were taken from an analysis more than ten million workplace drug test results – revealed the U.S. workforce drug testing positivity rate is more than 25 percent higher than the thirty-year low of 3.5 percent recorded between 2010 and 2012.

Marijuana topped the list of illicit substances most commonly detected in drug testing in all workforce categories and specimen types. The rate of marijuana drug testing positivity for the U.S. workforce increased nearly eight percent in urine testing, from 2.6 percent in 2017 to 2.8 percent in 2018.

However, the positivity rate for opiates in urine drug testing declined nearly 21 percent between 2017 and 2018, the largest drop in three years and a nearly 37 percent decrease since the peak in 2015. In addition, the positivity rates for both heroin and cocaine also declined in workforce drug testing.

The findings also show an increased percentage of urine drug testing specimens in the U.S. workforce being reported as invalid due to inconsistency with normal human urine, jumping 40 percent in U.S. workforce between 2017 and 2018, and suggesting attempts at specimen adulteration or substitution.

Positivity for post-accident urine drug testing in the U.S. workforce climbed more than 9 percent year-over-year – 8.4 percent in 2018 versus 7.7 percent in 2017 – and increased by 29 percent over the past five years. The post-accident positivity rate has risen annually since 2011 in the U.S. workforce.

The jump in 2018 was largely driven by the addition of prescription opiates to the panel where the post-accident positivity for the semi-synthetic opiates – hydrocodone and/or hydromorphone – and for oxycodones – oxycodone and/or oxymorphone – was 1.1 percent and 0.77 percent, respectively.

Employers may not even be drug testing for these commonly abused opioids, according to Dawn Standerwick, Vice President of Strategic Growth at Employment Screening Resources® (ESR), who was interviewed for the Talent Economy article “What Can Employers Do to Fight the Opioid Epidemic?”

Standerwick – who has 26 years of experience and extensive knowledge of workplace drug testing – told Talent Economy that most drug test programs encompass a standard 5, 9, or 10 panel test which does not include synthetic and semi-synthetic opiates like oxycodone, hydrocodone, and hydromorphone.

She said the standard drug test panel used by most employers only tests for naturally occurring opiates codeine and morphine, not synthetic versions. In order to detect synthetic opiates, an expanded opiates panel must be added. She suggested that business leaders “take proactive measures” with drug testing.

Drug Testing Solutions from ESR

Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) – a leading global background check provider – offers a fully integrated electronic drug testing solution with access to more than 10,000 collection facilities and clinics in the United States. To learn more, visit www.esrcheck.com/Background-Checks/Drug-Testing/.

NOTE: Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) does not provide or offer legal services or legal advice of any kind or nature. Any information on this website is for educational purposes only.

© 2019 Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) – Making copies or using of any part of the ESR News Blog or ESR website for any purpose other than your own personal use is prohibited unless written authorization is first obtained from ESR.

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