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new trends in workforce drug useIn the early afternoon of Jan. 4, 1987, an Amtrak train crashed into a locomotive 18 miles northeast of Baltimore, causing 16 deaths and dozens of injuries. In post-accident drug and alcohol testing, the engineer driving the train tested positive for marijuana, although no one noticed anything unusual about his behavior before the crash that day.

The threat of workplace drug use was well-known even before the tragedy. Six years prior to the Amtrak incident, the crash of an aircraft aboard the USS Nimitz spurred an investigation by the U.S. military that found widespread use of drugs among U.S. Navy personnel.

These events helped prompt Congress to pass the Drug-Free Workplace Act in 1988 to address the issue of workforce drug use. The act requires certain federal contractors and all federal grantees to agree that they will provide drug-free workplaces as a condition of receiving a contract or grant from a federal agency. In 1991, the government also authorized mandatory random drug testing for employees in “safety-sensitive” jobs in industries regulated by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Similarly, the explosive growth of crack cocaine in the United States in the mid-1980s focused attention on the workplace impact of drug use in the private sector. This led to the implementation of workplace drug education, monitoring and employee assistance programs for both public and private employees.

Thanks to the coordinated efforts of the medical and business communities, the rate of positive drug tests in the workforce has declined significantly among employers who have instituted a drug-free workplace policy since the implementation of the Drug-Free Workplace Act.

But this overall trend does not mean that employers, medical professionals, and policymakers can declare victory in the battle against drug use in the workplace. The Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index™ 2016 report offers new evidence of the challenges ahead.

Based on analysis of more than 10 million workforce drug test results, Quest found that, while overall workplace positivity rates have dropped dramatically over the past two decades, drug positivity rates are climbing once again in the American workforce. In 1988, the first year of the Drug Testing Index, the overall positivity rate for all drugs was 13.6%. By 2016, that rate had fallen to 4.2%. While this is a major improvement, the workplace positivity rate has actually increased annually for the past five years and is now at its highest level since 2004.

The positivity rate in urine tests for cocaine increased for the fourth consecutive year in the general U.S. workforce and for the second consecutive year in the federally-mandated, safety-sensitive workforce. Methamphetamine positivity has also been on the rise, climbing 64% in the general U.S. workforce and 14% among federally-mandated, safety-sensitive workers between 2012 and 2016.

The report also found that marijuana positivity continued to increase. In oral fluid testing, which detects recent drug use, the marijuana positivity rate increased nearly 75% in the general workforce, from 5.1% in 2013 to 8.9% in 2016. Marijuana positivity also increased in tests of urine (2.5% in 2016 versus 2.4% in 2015) and hair (7.3% in 2016 versus 7.0% in 2015).

Quest examined state-level data for marijuana, including states with recreational use statutes. In Colorado and Washington, the first states in which recreational marijuana was legalized, the 2016 positivity rate for marijuana outpaced the national average for the first time since the statutes took effect in 2014. The national positivity rate increased 4% between 2015 and 2016, but jumped to 11% in Colorado and 9% in Washington in the same period.

Given this data, it seems reasonable to conclude that the legalization of marijuana for medical and recreational purposes will lead to increases in the rates of marijuana use in the workforce, which could affect more and more companies as the legalization movement spreads throughout the country. While current policy discussions are largely focused on marijuana, employers must not lose sight of the other trends in workforce drug positivity. Drug use of any kind can have a major impact on workplace safety and productivity. Employers need to be aware of the problem and take any necessary steps to protect their employees and their workplaces from the threat of drug use.

Robert L. DuPont, MD, is president of the Institute for Behavior and Health, Inc., a nonprofit organization that works to reduce illegal drug use. He was the first director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (1973-1978) and second White House Drug Chief (1973-1977).

Risk Management magazine features analysis, insights and new from the Risk and Insurance Management Society, Inc. (RIMS) The “New Trends in Workforce Drug Use” article was published on August 1, 2017.

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

SHRM in the Big Easy

by Bonnie Bush on July 13, 2017

New Orleans has a rich history that spans back to the 1700s. The city’s pulse beats through marvelous jazz musicians, street performers, and some of the world’s most diverse and delicious food. No other city in the United States quite compares. This eclectic stage lent itself to a lively conference held by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). My first impression of SHRM was a jazz band that greeted me at the baggage carousel. The music was just a taste of the energy that was to come.

The annual SHRM conference attracts more than 15,000 attendees from all over the world to share HR solutions and best practices. The three-day conference was packed with sessions, demonstrations, networking, and a bustling exhibit floor. While working at the Quest Diagnostics booth, it became clear just how well human resources professionals relate to people. Our booth had friendly visitors all day and many swung by just to say thank you for the support.

It was clear that our drug testing solutions aid in the employee recruiting, hiring, and onboarding process. One attendee after the next reiterated that drug screening programs help them search for capable, talented, drug-free job applicants. This frequent comment mirrors industry research that shows people who use drugs are less likely to work for employers that conduct pre-employment or random drug testing. With that in mind, although many attendees knew Quest, there were a number of great questions about the complexities of administering drug-free workplace programs.

What is the best drug test type for remote employees?
A drug test collection in the field can be challenging for employers hiring remote and rural employees. Instant urine drug tests can be completed regardless of the location and sent to a lab to confirm positive test results. Oral fluid testing is another popular option because of its simple to conduct, observed collection process that’s tough for donors to cheat.

Does Quest conduct drug testing internationally?
Yes. Quest Diagnostics operates facilities in the United States, India, Mexico, and Australia. International drug test specimen types include urine, oral fluid, hair, and instant.

Does Quest offer 24-hour drug test collections on a national scale?
Yes. We have more than 6,000 certified collectors throughout the U.S. that provide around-the-clock access, especially in cases of emergencies or accidents. Our 24/7 call center dispatches a trained collector who typically completes the collection within 2 hours of the call.

How quickly can my company get a drug test result?
Each of our four laboratories located around the country measure turnaround times from the moment a the drug test specimen enters the lab until the time when we release the final result. That said, turnaround times depend on the specimen type, reason for testing, and if the test is positive or negative.

This year, the liveliness of the city of New Orleans was matched by the energy and enthusiasm of the SHRM attendees. We’ll exhibit again at next year’s conference in Chicago, and you’re invited to come and visit with us at our booth.

Stay connected with Quest Diagnostics on LinkedIn and Facebook.

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

Fighting Opioid Prescription Addiction

June 29, 2017News

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 […]

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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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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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2017 National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day

April 14, 2017News

An ambulance blazes by a sea of idling cars in the midst of evening rush-hour. Weaving through traffic, the EMT’s singular goal is to arrive at the emergency room as quickly as possible. The passenger is a victim of accidental prescription drug poisoning. This scenario plays out daily in cities across the country. In fact, […]

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Winter Storm Stella May Cause Delays

March 14, 2017News

The National Weather service has issued winter storm warnings throughout the northeast, with likely impacts including Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington D.C. In addition, blizzard warnings have also been issued from northeast New Jersey to far southeast New York and southern Connecticut. Be aware that this hazardous storm may impact the logistics and transportation of […]

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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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Clarifying the New OSHA Post-Accident Drug Testing Regulations

February 3, 2017Drug Testing

New regulations issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regarding Recording and Reporting Occupational Injuries and Illnesses became effective on December 1, 2016. The regulations prohibit employers from retaliating against employees for reporting workplace injuries and illnesses (OSHA 29 CFR 1904). Although drug and alcohol testing was not mentioned in the Final Rule […]

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2017 Random Testing Rate

December 21, 2016News

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced last week that the minimum annual drug testing rate will remain at 25 percent for 2017. Visit the ODAPC website to see a helpful graphic, which outlines the annual minimum drug and alcohol random testing rates established within DOT Agencies and the United States […]

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