International Drug and Alcohol Trends

by Pablo Bolanos on October 31, 2017

Brazil is known for spectacular beaches, the Amazon rainforest, and over the past decade, the “Cracklands,” a notorious part of Rio de Janeiro at the heart of Brazil’s growing crack-cocaine epidemic. On the other side of the equator, there is Canada, often referred to as “the friendly neighbor to the north.” Much like the U.S., Canada has struggled with a significant increase in opioid-related deaths during the past two decades. According to research from the Ontario Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences and the Ontario Drug Policy Research Network, more than 700 people died of opioid-related causes in 2015. If you employ people in these countries, drug use trends are critical for companies striving to maintain a drug-free workforce.

The International Forum for Drug and Alcohol Testing conference (IFDAT) brings thought leaders together to share best practices and engage in dialogue about how to keep global workplaces safe, productive, and drug-free. Insights about other countries’ experiences with drugs and alcohol help to develop a deeper understanding of cultures, foreign laws, and societal attitudes towards substance abuse, and subsequently, drug testing.

At the last IFDAT conference, which took place in Florida in October, sessions included aviation regulations, drug panel configurations throughout the world, international Medical Review Officer services, alcohol biomarker testing (including PEth), road safety, and dealing with test results across borders. Yet, during the conference, a universal theme emerged: drug use, drug abuse, and fatal overdoses do not singularly affect one subset of a population, one tier of income, or only “the western world.” The latest findings from the United Nations’ Office on Drugs and Crime World Drug Report portray a vivid picture of drug and alcohol use across the globe:

  • 28 million cumulative years of life are lost as a result of drug use
  • An estimated 183 million past-year users of cannabis, or marijuana, in 2015
  • Approximately 1.6 million people who inject drugs have HIV and 6.1 million have Hepatitis C
  • Cultivation of the coca bush, the primary resource used in cocaine production, increased by 30% from 2013 to 2015, following a long decline
  • Drug trafficking using the “Darknet” has increased 50% each year since 2013

Additionally, Dr. Anthony Wong, Medical and Scientific Director of MAXILABOR Diagnostics, based out of Brazil, spoke about the benefits of implementing a rehabilitation program alongside voluntary employee drug testing. Dr. Wong looks at drug use and abuse as treatable conditions, and with the help of the Brazilian government has established the “CUIDE” program, a 5-step protocol that guides company policy towards treatment and rehab as part of a new kind of workplace drug testing program.

Another conclusion is that drug testing abroad is not easy. However complex, the benefits of drug-free workplace programs is supported by data and research. At Quest, we work to simplify drug testing abroad, from the collection of the specimen, to the shipping of the specimen from remote corners of the earth in an effort to streamline the entire process. Our centralized team of subject matter experts helps our clients to navigate logistics and obstacles overseas.

To learn more about international 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.

Hair testing helps to protect safety

August 29, 2017Hair testing

Safety remains a primary reason for drug testing, and that’s just as true in the U.S. as it is in Brazil. The Brazilian government faced serious challenges keeping its streets and highways safe with 40,000 traffic-related deaths annually. The dangers were reflected in data from the World Health Organization, which ranks Brazil fifth in the […]

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Risk Management: New trends in workforce drug use

August 2, 2017Drug Testing

In 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 […]

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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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An Exploration of Addiction: The Teen Years

May 5, 2017An Exploration of Addiction

Recreational drug and alcohol use is oftentimes perceived as harmless, non-habit-forming behavior. In reality millions suffer from substance-abuse disorders that surfaced under the mask of recreational use. In this installment of our Exploration of Addiction series, we examine how addiction can take hold when our brains are at their most vulnerable and when life is […]

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By the Numbers: Positivity by Drug

October 6, 2016By the Numbers

Our By the Numbers series takes a closer look at the numbers, facts, data, and outputs that impact workplace drug testing programs. In this post,we take a closer look at positivity by drug which the Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index™ (DTI) measures using a combination of three factors: drug category, specimen type, and workforce segment. […]

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Drug Abuse Spans the Globe

October 3, 2016International testing

The percentage of employees in the combined U.S. workforce testing positive for drugs has steadily increased over the last three years to a 10-year high according to the latest Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index™ data. In the United States, the media spotlight on drug-related topics, such as the opioid epidemic, frame drug abuse and addiction […]

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