Drugs & Alcohol

America’s Favorite Illicit Drug: Marijuana

by Nicole Jupe on July 7, 2017

america's favorite drug is marijuanaMarijuana is the product of the hemp plant, Cannabis sativa, containing the psychoactive chemical delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Despite its illegal status, the drug reigns as America’s favorite and most commonly detected illicit drug. Since the 1920s, marijuana has been the subject of myths and propaganda while also being glamorized by pop culture, movies, and television. Attitudes relaxed in the 1960s and the drug gained popularity among the upper middle class and with counter-culture movements like Woodstock. Experimentation and widespread marijuana use followed. Thirty years later, voters passed Proposition 215 in 1996 and California became the first state to allow the medical use of marijuana. Today 30 states and the District of Columbia have their own versions of marijuana legislation; however, it remains a Schedule I Controlled Substance under Federal law.

Marijuana positivity continues to trend upward. The latest Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index™ (DTI) data indicates that marijuana use has increased significantly in the last three years. Among the federally-mandated, safety-sensitive workforce, which only utilizes urine testing, marijuana positivity increased nearly 10% (0.71% in 2015 versus 0.78% in 2016), the largest year-over-year increase in 5 years. In the general U.S. workforce, marijuana positivity climbed in urine testing (2.4% in 2015 versus 2.5% in 2016) and hair testing (7.0% in 2015 versus 7.3% in 2016). The most remarkable data pointed to a nearly 75% increase of marijuana positivity in oral fluid drug tests in the general U.S. workforce in the last 3 years (5.1% in 2013 to 8.9% in 2016).

Quest has also been analyzing data for several years in states that have passed medical and recreational marijuana use statutes. “2016 is the first year since Colorado and Washington approved recreational use that the rates of year-over-year change were sharply higher than the national average,” said Barry Sample, PhD, Senior Director of Science and Technology, Quest Diagnostics Employer Solutions.

Globally, there are 182.5 million cannabis users, or 3.8% of the total population, according to the World Drug Report. Not surprisingly some employers report difficulty in finding job applicants who can pass a drug test. The most current findings for the United States from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health tell us:

  • An estimated 22.2 million adults, 8.3% of the total population, aged 12 or older currently use marijuana. The increase in marijuana use among people aged 12 or older reflects the increase in marijuana use by adults aged 26 or older.
  • About 1 in 5 young adults aged 18 to 25 (19.8%) were current users of marijuana.
  • Approximately 651,000 adolescents (ages 12-17), 1.8 million young adults, and 1.6 million adults suffer from a marijuana use disorder, pointing to dependence and recurrent use that affects health, responsibilities at work, home, or school.

That said, research and data indicates that marijuana use in society is up. Drug testing continues to be an important tool to maintain a safe, healthy, and productive drug-free workplace.

Visit QuestDiagnostics.com/DTI for the full Drug Testing Index™ report and data and download the latest Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index brochure.

To search for marijuana positivity rates by 3-digit zip code in the United States for the past 10 years, visit QuestDiagnostics.com/DrugMap.

To learn more about drug testing for marijuana, visit our website or contact us online.

Fighting Opioid Prescription Addiction

by Steve Beller on June 29, 2017

Opioid addiction can begin with the best of intentions, like managing pain. The middle-aged male visits the ER for a back sprain. A typical teenager has her wisdom teeth removed by the oral surgeon. To minimize discomfort, the healthcare professional may prescribe 20 or more hydrocodone pills. In fact, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), estimates that on average, more than 650,000 opioid prescriptions are written and dispensed each day in the U.S.

Addiction has skyrocketed as a result. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) estimates that in 2015, “Two million people in the United States suffered from substance use disorders related to prescription opioid pain medicines and over 33,000 Americans died as a result of an opioid overdose.” NIDA also found that the (negative) impact to the U.S. economy due to prescription opioid misuse to be more than $78 billion a year.

As a result, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued a new guideline in 2016 for the prescription of opioids. Primary-care providers are discouraged from turning to opioids to treat acute pain. The guideline advises doctors to “start low and go slow.” Doctors are urged to prescribe the lowest effective dose in the smallest quantity needed for the time period when pain is severe enough to warrant a narcotic. If an opioid is prescribed, the CDC recommends a faster-acting medication with a short duration of pain relief, rather than slower-acting, extended-release drugs with a longer duration. Adapting to these new guidance may prove challenging for doctors who, throughout their careers, practiced aggressive pain management.

State and the federal government are joining the fight by either evaluating or enacting legislation to limit opioid prescriptions. An article from Bloomberg View reports, “In New Jersey, a patient’s first course of opioids is now limited to five days (30 has been the norm) and the lowest effective dose. A similar bill in the U.S. Senate would limit first prescriptions to seven days. The Senate is also considering taxing prescription opioids to help pay for addiction-treatment services, as are lawmakers in Alaska and California.”

Our country is in the midst of an opioid epidemic. Media attention provides much needed awareness and entities like the CDC deliver education on how to identify, combat, and positively impact the growing issue. Where awareness and education fall short, guidelines and laws aimed at reshaping how physicians address pain management will make the biggest long-term impact. Because of all opioid- related deaths, nearly half of them involve a prescription.

Follow our blog to laern more about opioids and the impact of the opioid abuse.

For information on drug testing, visit our website or contact us online.

Employers Paying the Price of Substance Abuse

May 9, 2017Drug Testing

Substance abuse in the workplace is increasing. For the past several years, data from the Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index™ has shown an increase in drug test positivity in the American workforce. We knew that employee drug use was costly to businesses in turnover, absenteeism, accidents, and insurance. However, the actual cost employers bear for […]

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Common Questions about Marijuana

April 28, 2017Illicit drugs

Many employers continue to ask questions about marijuana in the era of state legislation surrounding medical and recreational use statutes. In an effort to provide information about topics related to the science, drug testing, policy, and the law, Quest Diagnostics experts have provided responses to the some of the most frequently asked questions we receive […]

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Side-Effects of Quitting Marijuana

April 20, 2017Drugs & Alcohol

April is a month when avid marijuana consumers, distributors, and marketers ramp up their efforts to reach audiences as they hype up the unofficial pot smoker’s holiday – 4/20. It’s possible that more first-time users will try the drug this year than in year’s past because of relaxing attitudes and increasing societal tolerance towards marijuana. […]

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Cannabinol State Laws

March 28, 2017Drug Testing

Chemically complex, the cannabis sativa plant, known as marijuana, has hundreds of active compounds and cannabinoids. Ratios of chemicals and potency can differ based on the age of the plant, the origin, and the method of cultivation. Some of the more well-known chemicals in marijuana include: Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC): Primary psychoactive ingredient that produces a “high” Cannabidiol […]

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The Case for Maintaining a Drug Testing Policy

March 16, 2017Drug Testing

Employers conduct drug testing for a number of reasons – pre-employment, random, post-accident, reasonable suspicion, and return-to-duty. Of these, reasonable suspicion can often be the most litigious and, as such, points out the importance of creating and maintaining a comprehensive workplace drug testing policy and program. The case of Layne v. Kanawha County Board of […]

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Employee Protections in the Era of Medical Marijuana Legislation

March 10, 2017Drug Testing

More than twenty states have enacted medical marijuana laws since Proposition 215 was passed by California voters in 1996. The earliest medical marijuana laws typically only provided criminal protections, however in the past two decades, laws are now extending protections to housing, schooling, domestic relations, and employment. State marijuana regulations uniquely address aspects such as […]

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Weeding Out the Facts Webinar Recap

February 21, 2017Illicit drugs

Employers face challenges as states continue to pass marijuana legislation, while the substance is still illegal under federal law.  In our recent webinar, two highly-regarded industry experts, Dr. Barry Sample, Senior Director of Science and Technology, Quest Diagnostics, and D. Faye Caldwell, Attorney at Law, Caldwell Everson, presented facts and insight about marijuana and the workplace […]

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Revisions to Federal Workplace Drug Testing

February 10, 2017Drugs & Alcohol

On January 23, 2017, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) revised the Mandatory Guidelines for Federal Workplace Drug Testing Programs. More specifically, the notice expanded federal urine workplace drug testing to include four Schedule II drugs: hydrocodone, hydromorphone, oxycodone, and oxymorphone. The effective date for the revised Guidelines is October 1, 2017. […]

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