U.S. Workforce Drug Testing Positivity Climbs to Highest Rate in 16 Years

Drug Testing

Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

The rate of urine drug testing positivity in the combined U.S. workforce increased to a sixteen-year high in 2019, climbing to 4.5 percent, the highest level since 2003 and more than 28 percent higher than the thirty-year low of 3.5 percent recorded between 2010 and 2012, according to an analysis by Quest Diagnostics.

The Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index™ of more than nine million U.S. workplace drug test results showed marijuana positivity climbed by double digits across nearly all employee testing categories, cocaine and methamphetamine positivity surged in the Midwest and West, and opiate and heroin positivity declined.

  • Marijuana positivity in the U.S. workforce increased nearly 11 percent in urine testing from 2018 to 2019 (2.8 percent versus 3.1 percent) and 29 percent since 2015 (2.4 percent).
  • Cocaine positivity in the U.S. workforce increased in the Midwest by 40 percent (0.20 percent versus 0.28 percent) and in the West by 53 percent (0.15 percent versus 0.23 percent).
  • Methamphetamine positivity in the U.S. workforce increased nearly 78 percent in the Midwest from 2015 to 2019 (0.09 percent versus 0.16 percent).
  • Opioid positivity in the U.S. workforce declined 19 percent from 2018 to 2019 (0.31 percent versus 0.25 percent) and 49 percent from 2015 to 2019 (0.49 percent versus 0.25 percent).
  • Heroin positivity in the U.S. workforce declined 33 percent from 2018 to 2019 (0.03 percent versus 0.02 percent) and 50 percent since its peak in 2015 and 2016 (0.04 percent).

Drug deaths in the United States rose 5 percent in 2019 following a decline in 2018, driven largely by methamphetamine, cocaine, and fentanyl. During the first few months of 2020, drug deaths increased about 13 percent compared with 2019, attributable partly to social isolation and other disruptions caused by COVID-19.

“There is no question that before COVID-19, rates of workplace drug positivity were trending in the wrong direction,” Dr. Barry Sample, senior director of science and technology at Quest Diagnostics, stated in a press release. “The enormous strain caused by COVID-19 may prove to be an accelerant on this disturbing trend.”

COVID-19 is a deadly respiratory illness that spreads from person to person. As of August 31, 2020, there are approximately 25.2 million global cases and 846,000 global deaths, while the United States leads the world with approximately 5.9 million cases and 183,000 deaths, according to research from Johns Hopkins University.

Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) – a leading global background check provider – offers pre- and post-employment drug testing solutions for employers in a fully integrated electronic solution with access to over 10,000 collection sites as well as information about opioids. To learn more about ESR, visit www.esrcheck.com.

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.

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