American workers

Top 10 Drug Testing Tips for HR

by Nicole Jupe on June 16, 2017

Human Resources professionals serve as trusted advisors offering insights and guidance on a variety of topics such as staffing, benefits, compensation, and employee engagement. Ultimately, the role centers on making a positive impact for the workforce and retaining high-performing employees who drive results. As the labor market tightens, the importance of effective recruitment strategies has to continue to increase in order to attract the highest caliber job candidates.

A drug screening program is a critical component to aid HR in hiring the best, most talented, drug-free individual for the job. It also supports efforts to maintain a safe, healthy, and productive environment for all employees. Without a testing program, employers can face challenges such as increased absenteeism, turnover, and on-the-job accidents, as well as declines in performance and productivity.

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, approximately 67 percent of all drug users are employed. With that in mind, here are 10 tips to boost your workplace drug testing IQ.

  1. Know the risks. Drug use among American workers is on an upward trend. Analysis from the recent Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index showed that drug positivity in the U.S. workforce hit a 12-year high fueled by cocaine, marijuana, and methamphetamine.
  1. Understand when and who to drug test. Different reasons for testing impact frequency and who is tested. For example, pre-employment drug testing is completed by a candidate after a conditional offer of employment has been made and requires a negative result. On the other hand, random drug testing is conducted on an unannounced basis using a random selection process of current employees.
  1. Match the test to your needs. Urine, oral fluid, hair, and instant tests are the most common workplace drug testing methods available and each has unique advantages. If you are unsure which test type best fits your workforce, our Drug Testing Needs Assessment can help.
  1. Screen for commonly-detected drugs. Select what drugs to monitor by taking into consideration regional patterns of drug use, job type, employee demographics, and drug testing benefits / limitations. Many companies, regardless of industry, elect to follow the guidelines established by the federal drug testing program.
  1. Determine the window of drug detection. Decide if your company is screening for very recent drug use or longer term patterns of repetitive use. Various drug test types can be used in combination with each other for more comprehensive screening. 
  1. Choose who collects the drug test specimen. Employers can opt to conduct certain types of drug test collections themselves at their place of employment. Other employers prefer that a trained, professional test administrator complete the collection at a nearby site equipped with the necessary testing supplies and forms.
  1. Revisit your policy. Review your policy to ensure it is current, complies with all relevant state and federal laws, and considers all parameters and procedures involved with drug testing. Consider new challenges such as state marijuana legislation, our country’s opioid epidemic, and the growing popularity of synthetic drugs such as synthetic cannabinoids, K2, and bath salts in your program’s language. Always consult an attorney if you need additional clarity. 
  1. Train your leaders. Once the policy is implemented, provide training to supervisors about the warning signs of substance abuse, documentation of performance-related problems, employee assistance programs (EAP), health-insurance coverage for treatment, and how to refer an employee for help. 
  1. Be transparent. Policies must be applied consistently across an organization without exception. Communicate to job candidates that a pre-employment drug testing is a mandatory requirement and only hire an applicant who passes the drug test.
  1. Stay informed. Organizations such as the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), Drug and Alcohol Testing Industry Association (DATIA), Substance Abuse Program Administrators Association (SAPAA), and The Institute for a Drug-Free Workplace offer training and resources about drug and alcohol testing and trends. You can also follow trusted media and social media communities keep current on news and information. If you are in New Orleans for the annual SHRM conference, stop by booth #2321 and talk with a Quest representative.

For additional insights from industry experts, download our Guide to Establishing a Workplace Drug Testing Program.

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

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 (DATIA) annual conference, a gathering of industry professionals focused on safety, regulatory affairs, ethics, and workplace drug testing education from all over the world.

In examining the latest data, Barry Sample, Ph.D., Senior Director of Science and Technology at Quest Diagnostics, said, “This year’s findings are remarkable because they show increased rates of drug positivity for the most common illicit drugs across virtually all drug test specimen types and in all testing populations.” He noted the following key findings from millions of workplace drug test results.

  • Overall positivity in urine drug testing among the combined U.S. workforce in 2016 was 4.2 percent, a five percent relative increase over last year’s rate of 4.0 percent, and the highest annual positivity rate since 2004 (4.5 percent).
  • Cocaine, marijuana, and methamphetamine use is up broadly among the U.S. workforce across multiple drug test specimen types and testing populations.
  • Cocaine positivity increased 12 percent in 2016, reaching a seven-year high of 0.28 percent.
  • The positivity rate for cocaine in post-accident urine drug tests was more than twice that of pre-employment urine drug tests in both the federally-mandated, safety-sensitive and the general U.S. workforces.
  • In Colorado and Washington, the overall urine positivity rate for marijuana outpaced the national average in 2016 for the first time since the recreational statutes took effect.
  • Year over year marijuana positivity increased nearly 75 percent in oral fluid testing. In addition, positivity increased in both urine and hair testing in the general U.S. workforce.
  • Between 2012 and 2016, methamphetamine positivity climbed 64 percent in the general U.S. workforce and 14 percent among federally-mandated, safety-sensitive workers.
  • Heroin detection, indicated by the presence of the 6-acetylmorphine (6-AM) metabolite, plateaued in the general U.S. workforce while prescription opiate detection declines.

“Once again, the DTI statistics reveal the on-going threat to workplace safety posed by substance abuse. While the national dialogue swirls around marijuana and opiate issues, we find cocaine—a substance with well-established dangers—continuing its troubling upswing not just in the general workforce, but in safety-sensitive jobs with federally-mandated testing,” said Matt Nieman, General Counsel, Institute for a Drug-Free Workplace and Principal, Jackson Lewis P.C. “That positive test results for cocaine persist, let alone are increasing, should serve as a reminder to employers and employees that there is no substitute for vigilance in any effective effort to thwart the potential impacts of workplace substance abuse.”

Along with this year’s data, we are offering an interactive map to illustrate overall positivity and positivity by drug for the past 10 years in urine testing. Users can search by both zip code and year for six illicit drugs: 6-AM (heroin metabolite), amphetamines, cocaine, marijuana, opiates, and PCP at

Workplace drug testing promotes a safe, healthy and productive environment for employees. Our analysis suggests that employers committed to creating a safe, drug-free work environment should be aware of the potential for drug use among their workforce.

Media coverage for the Drug Testing Index includes an exclusive story by The Wall Street Journal. Other press featuring the DTI includes: The Washington Post, CNBC’s Closing BellTIME magazineFortune, CBS Money WatchViceMarketWatchThe Chicago Tribune, Facility Safety Management, Business InsuranceInsurance Journal, Daily Republic, FOX Denver,  Newsday, NJBIANew Jersey’s NJ.comPittsburgh Post-Gazette, North Nevada Business Weekly, Dayton Daily News, Brevard Times, The National Law Review, PoliticoThe TruckerHR DiveMedical Laboratory Observer: LabLineCrime Report, Drug ChronicleSteelers LoungeSector PublishingDaily Caller, Newsmax Wires, RTBulk Transporter, Lexology, Daily Chew, NCASJunior College, Industry Week, Salon, ExamOne blogWSJ: The 10-Point, Construction Equipment, EHS Today, Kansas City Star, Baltimore Sun, Hartford Business Journal, USA Today: LouisvilleCharleston Post-Courier, Twin Cities Business magazineNew Hampshire Union Leader, Santa Rosa Press DemocratTraverse City Business NewsHuman Resources Executive, Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM), Transport Topics, and USA TODAY Snapshot.

In addition, the Jimmy Kimmel Live show asked cited Quest Diagnostics data and in its Pedestrian Question segment asked people if they have ever been high at work.

Read the full press release for the latest DTI data as well as drug testing news and resources.

Download our new Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index brochure and the this year’s DTI infographics.

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

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