Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

Drug use by the U.S. workforce remained at its highest level in more than a decade as the positivity rate for drug tests was 4.2 percent in 2017, the same as in 2016 and the highest since 2004, according to analysis of more than 10 million drug test results in the 2018 Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index™ (DTI).

Analysis of the drug test data suggests a shifting pattern of drug use as cocaine and amphetamines positivity surged in some areas of the country, marijuana positivity rose sharply in states with newer recreational use statutes, and prescription opiate positivity rates declined on a national basis.

  • Cocaine: The positivity rate for cocaine increased for the fifth consecutive year in the general U.S. workforce across every specimen type. In urine testing, the most common drug test specimen type, the positivity rate for cocaine increased seven percent in the U.S. workforce.
  • Methamphetamine: An analysis of trends in the U.S. workforce based on the four U.S. Census regions identified large increases of methamphetamine positivity rates. The percentage increase in these four divisions ranged between nine percent and 25 percent between 2016 and 2017.
  • Marijuana: Overall, marijuana positivity continued its five-year upward trajectory in urine testing for the U.S. workforce. Marijuana positivity increased four percent in the general U.S. workforce and nearly eight percent in the safety-sensitive workforce.
  • Prescription Opiates: The positivity rate for opiates in the U.S. workforce in urine drug testing declined 17 percent between 2016 and 2017. Oxycodones positivity declined 12 percent, hydrocodone positivity declined 17 percent, and hydromorphone positivity declined 22 percent.

2018 marks thirty consecutive years of the Quest Diagnostics 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 U.S. since the Drug-Free Workplace Act was signed into law in 1988.

“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,” Barry Sample, PhD, senior director, science and technology, Quest Diagnostics, stated in a press release about the DTI results.

The Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index™ (DTI) examines test results according to three categories of workers: federally-mandated, safety-sensitive workers; the general workforce; and the combined U.S. workforce. Download the Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index report with full year 2017 tables here.

Drug Testing Solutions from ESR

Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) – a leading global background check firm – provides a fully integrated and electronic drug testing solution with access to more than 10,000 collection facilities and clinics in the United States. To learn more, visit

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