By the Numbers

Quest Diagnostics Health Trends studies are published in peer-reviewed medical journals and by the company as a public service. The research features insights and analysis from a large database of laboratory data. Most recently, we released the Prescription Drug Misuse in America: Diagnostic Insights in the Growing Drug Epidemic report, which examined 3.4 million prescription medication monitoring lab tests. Analysis includes results from patients in all 50 states and the District of Columbia performed by Quest between 2011 and 2016.

The study found that, while evidence of misuse has declined in recent years, 52% of test results showed evidence of potential misuse in 2016, suggesting a majority of patients took their prescribed drugs in ways that were inconsistent with their physician’s instruction. By comparison, in 2011, 63% of test results were inconsistent with physician orders. Misuse is defined as a patient taking prescribed drugs in a way that is inconsistent with a physician’s instruction.

Some key findings from the study include:

  • More than half of patient specimens (52%) showed signs of prescription drug misuse.
  • 19% of specimens that tested positive for heroin were also positive for non-prescribed fentanyl. This combination of drugs heightens the risk of a drug overdose death.
  • Misuse rates were even higher for men and women of reproductive age (58%) than in the general study population (52%). Men were more likely to use marijuana and women were more likely to use non-prescribed benzodiazepines.
  • The most commonly detected drug used by young adults is marijuana, while older adults prefer to use benzodiazepines.
  • One in three adolescents (ages 10 – 17 years old) tested showed signs of drug misuse in 2016, a major improvement from 70% in 2011.

The study also found dangerous drug combinations are common. Among more than 33,000 specimens tested for opioids, benzodiazepines, and alcohol in 2016, more than 20% were positive for both opioids and benzodiazepines, more than 10% were positive for both opioids and alcohol, and 3% were positive for all three.

As our country faces an epidemic of prescription drug misuse, objective laboratory data can help to assist healthcare providers in assessing patients’ use of prescribed medications and other illicit drugs and educate the public about the associated health risks. We offer full line of lab-based drug testing services to help identify the appropriate and inappropriate use of prescription drugs.

See our interactive map showing drug misuse nationally and by state.

Download the complete report.

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

New data shows 1 in 10 Americans use drugs

by Nicole Jupe on September 25, 2017

More states than ever before allow the recreational use of marijuana, a Schedule I Controlled Substance. Opiate abuse claims 91 lives each day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If users can’t obtain painkillers, they seek potent, cheaper alternatives like fentanyl or heroin. In short, drug use in our society continues to increase. To understand what’s trending, we must pay attention to the number of emergency room visits, poison control calls, drug seizures, law enforcement reports of drug-related activities, laboratory drug testing results, and surveys of the population.

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) is published annually and is one of the most trusted sources of statistical information about substance use and misuse. The NSDUH has interviewed individuals aged 12 and older in the United States since 1988. Funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, its goals are to provide accurate national and state-level patterns of use, to assess the consequences of drug abuse, and to identify high-risk groups.

Survey questions focus on tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drug use, as well as substance use disorders, treatment, and mental illness. The research organizes illicit drugs into 10 categories: marijuana, cocaine (including crack), heroin, hallucinogens, inhalants, methamphetamine, prescription pain relievers, tranquilizers, stimulants, and sedatives. Additionally, the survey presents data in three distinct age segments—ages 12 to 17, 18 to 25, and 26 and older— in order to examine trends among adolescents, young adults, and adults.

Results from the most recent survey were released this month. Highlighted below are some key findings for individuals aged 12 or older:

  • About 28.6 million Americans used an illicit drug in the past month, equating to 1 in 10 people.
  • Illicit drug use continues to be driven primarily by marijuana, with an estimated 24 million current users.
  • The data showed 11.5 million people misused pain relievers and 948,000 used heroin.
  • Relieving physical pain was cited by 62.3% of people as the primary reason for misusing pain relievers. Fifty-three percent of that group were given or bought pills from friends or relatives.
  • Almost 2 million people are current users of cocaine.
  • Current users of methamphetamine totaled 667,000 people. The survey found that the majority of methamphetamine is made illegally, not by pharmaceutical companies.
  • Approximately 7.4 million people suffered from illicit drug use disorders with marijuana disorder as the most common (4 million people). An estimated 21 million people needed treatment for a disorder.
  • An estimated 136.7 million people were current alcohol users, with 65.3 million binge drinkers and 16.3 million heavy drinkers within that group.

Download the full report from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

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

By the Numbers: Random Drug Testing Data

September 22, 2017Drug Testing

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 […]

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America’s Favorite Illicit Drug: Marijuana

July 7, 2017Illicit drugs

Marijuana 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 […]

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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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