Worrying Trend Of Rising Drug Use By America’s Workforce

(3BL Media/Justmeans) – American workers are increasingly testing positive for workforce drug use across almost all workforce categories and drug test types. In the past, there have been noticeable increases in prescription drugs, but now it seems illicit drug use is also on the rise. These findings by Quest Diagnostics (NYSE: DGX), the world's leading provider of diagnostic information services are concerning, as they suggest that the recent focus on illicit marijuana use may be too narrow and that other, more dangerous drugs are potentially making a comeback. The percentage of American workers testing positive for illicit drugs such as marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine has grown for the second year running, according to insights from more than 10 million workplace drug test results.  

This increase in illicit drug positivity in employment drug testing should get employers and policymakers to sit up and take notice of the serious risks these drugs pose for productivity, health and safety. Especially, as many of these substances are clearly associated with impaired physical and cognitive functions. Public and private employers may want to consider revisiting existing substance abuse policies to ensure that they are taking the necessary precautions to protect their workplace, employees and businesses. 

The Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index (DTI) analysed urine, oral fluid and hair drug tests performed by Quest Diagnostics workplace drug testing laboratories across the U.S. in 2014. Test results were examined according to three categories of workers: employees with private companies (general American workforce); employees subject to federal drug testing rules, including safety-sensitive employees such as truck drivers, train operators, airline and nuclear power plant workers (federally-mandated, safety-sensitive workforce); and a combination of both groups (combined U.S. workforce).

Marijuana continues to be the most commonly detected illicit drug, according to the Quest DTI. The findings are consistent with findings from other data sources, such as the National Survey of Drug Use and Health. Quest researchers also analysed urine drug test data for the U.S. workforce from the two states with recreational marijuana-use laws, Colorado and Washington. By comparison the marijuana positivity rate increased 20 percent and 23 percent in Colorado and Washington, respectively, in the general U.S. workforce between 2012 and 2013, compared to the national average of 5 percent. This will be an important area of continued analysis given the national debate about the legality and health impacts of recreational and medicinal marijuana use. 

The research also showed steady increases in workplace positivity for cocaine in the general workforce over the past two years, reversing a prolonged period of decline, including an upward trend of methamphetamine and heroin. Amphetamines describe the category, or drug class, that includes both prescription amphetamine drugs like Adderall® and methamphetamine, an illicit drug that’s produced in clandestine labs. They are all a class of central nervous system stimulants that cause increased energy and alertness followed by exhaustion as the effects wear off. 

Experts are unsure why drug use is rising in America and there is no conclusive link to drug consumption and economic cycles. 

Photo Credit: Quest Diagnostics