By the Numbers

By the Numbers: Random Drug Testing Data

by Ashlyn Hazard on September 22, 2017

Companies drug test their applicants and employees at a variety of times, for a variety of reasons, using a variety of specimen types. The federally-mandated, safety-sensitive sector follows regulatory drug testing guidance and in doing so establishes a model that is frequently followed by U.S. companies who elect to perform drug testing because they see its value.

Starting on January 1, 2016, this regulatory guidance changed for the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) when the minimum annual random urine drug test rate was decreased from 50% to 25%. This change was made because drug test positivity rates among this sector remained at less than 1% for three consecutive years.

Many FMCSA employers, including two-thirds of Quest Diagnostics FMCSA clients, followed this guidance and decreased their random testing rate throughout 2016. We recently analyzed more than 30 months of Quest Diagnostics FMSCA drug testing data – including the 12 months prior to the change and 18 months after it – in an effort to better understand the relationship between the rate of random drug tests performed and the corresponding rate of drug positivity in these tests. It is worth noting that while the federal panel is made up of amphetamines, cocaine, marijuana, opiates, and PCP, we removed amphetamines and opiates from our analysis. These two drug classes have a greater chance of being used with a valid prescription and overturned by a Medical Review Officer. Excluding these drugs ensures the positivity data is conservative in nature. We found these insights to be the most telling:

From the start of 2015 to the first half of 2017, Quest Diagnostics FMCSA clients decreased their random testing volume by an average of 25%. During that time, the average positivity of the random drug tests in this testing population increased by 13%. Over the same time period, these clients increased their testing by an average of 6% for all other testing reasons such as pre-employment, and only experienced a 2% average increase in positivity.

Simply stated, as the random drug testing rate declined, so has the chance and risk of being tested. As the risk of being tested declined, so did the power of drug testing and its ability to help deter use. With this in mind, it’s not surprising that drug use is increasing among long-haul truckers, bus drivers, delivery drivers, and construction vehicle drivers. In turn, every vehicle and person these drugged drivers interact with on the road bears an increased risk of an accident.

Two logical questions stem from this analysis:

Q: When will the required random testing rate be increased?

A: Only time will tell. Unfortunately, things have to get worse before they’ll get better, as the entire FMCSA random testing population must once again climb back to more than 1% positivity before we can expect to see a change in the regulation.

Q: What can FMCSA employers do to minimize the potential negative impact on their organizations, employees, and the general population?

A: For now, employers can remain vigilant in drug testing. The FMCSA random rate is only a minimum standard and employers can always elect to drug test at a greater rate than the minimum requirement. Take the time to examine your testing and positivity data, keep the dissuasive power of random drug testing in mind, and carefully consider the associated risk that your organization is willing to bear.

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

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 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

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

Mapping Drug Use in the U.S. Workforce

June 9, 2017Drug Testing

Which drugs are popular in my county? How does workplace drug use in my state compare to the rest of the country? Has drug use in the American workforce changed significantly during the past decade? Employers, media, government, and policymakers frequently look to Quest Diagnostics for insights about their specific geographies. These inquiries are especially […]

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Cocaine Continues Upward Trend

June 1, 2017Drug Testing

Cocaine is derived from the coca plant native to South America where many chew its leaves to squash pain, thirst, hunger, and fatigue. By the 1880s, doctors as famous as Sigmund Freud were studying cocaine as a “miracle drug” as an anesthetic for surgery and for a variety of health conditions including anxiety, addiction, and […]

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Increases in Illicit Drugs, Including Cocaine, Drive Workforce Drug Positivity to Highest Rate in 12 Years

May 16, 2017Drug Testing

The Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index™ (DTI) reveals insights into patterns of drug use among the American workforce. It has been published annually for more than 25 years as a public service for government, employers, policymakers, media, and the general public. This year’s report will be presented at the Drug and Alcohol Testing Industry Association […]

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Prescription Misuse Epidemic Affects 7 in 10 Employers

May 11, 2017Drug Testing

As one of the nation’s leading safety advocates, the National Safety Council (NSC) spotlights issues in an effort to “eliminate preventable deaths at work, in homes and communities, and on the road through leadership, research, education and advocacy.” The organization has identified prescription drug misuse as one of its key safety issues because of the […]

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By the Numbers: Going Green with eCCF

March 1, 2017By the Numbers

Our By the Numbers blog series takes a closer look at the numbers, facts, data, and outputs that impact workplace drug testing programs. In this post, we examine the environmental impact of moving from paper-based custody and control forms (CCF) to electronic custody and control forms (eCCF). Paper-based CCFs have been a mainstay of the drug testing […]

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Data Shows Escalating Drug Use in the U.S. Workforce

January 24, 2017Drug Testing

The Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index™ (DTI) is arguably the industry’s longest standing, most frequently relied upon resource for drug trends in the American workforce by policymakers, media, employers, and the general public. The DTI examines positivity by drug category, testing reason, and specimen type. Since its inception in 1988, this report has analyzed millions […]

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By the Numbers: Heroin Positivity Continues to Rise

December 15, 2016By the Numbers

Our By the Numbers blog series takes a closer look at the numbers, facts, data, and outputs that impact workplace drug testing programs. In this post, we look at the heroin positivity rate. Headlines continue to put a spotlight on startling statistics about heroin addiction and sometimes feature shocking stories to warn the public of the drug’s dangers. The […]

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By the Numbers: Drug Detection Window by Specimen Type

December 5, 2016By the Numbers

Our ongoing By the Numbers series takes a closer look at the numbers, facts, and data that impact workplace drug testing programs. This week, we examine one of the most frequently asked questions we receive as a laboratory: how long can drugs be detected using a drug test? The answer is not simple as you might think, […]

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