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: LouisvilleHuman Resources Executive, Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM), 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.

An Exploration of Addiction: The Teen Years

by Pablo Bolanos on May 5, 2017

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 at its most confusing – the adolescent years.

The root of our addictive behavior can be traced back to a time when our lives were ruled by raw emotion and thoughtless impulses thanks in large part to a developing brain. Dr. Jay Giedd at the National Institute of Mental Health studied the brains of teenagers and discovered a second “period of over-production of synapses” thought to only take place in babies. The study focuses on the surprising late-childhood growth and maturity of the frontal cortex, supporting the common belief that adolescents take more risks because their brains undergo tremendous change during these years.

Adding to the complexity of a maturing brain, teens actively look for their place in the world. We are a social species, who long to be part of a tribe of other like individuals. We need to belong. This biological fact dates back millennia and its purest form is manifested in teenagers, how they bully each other, how they celebrate together, and how they collaborate as peers in art, theater, music, and community service.

However, an immature brain coupled with a primitive drive to belong and unrelenting societal pressure may create a perfect storm for teenagers to seek out drugs and alcohol. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), early abuse often includes tobacco, alcohol, inhalants, marijuana, and prescription drugs such as sleeping pills and anti-anxiety medicines.

Aside from biological reasons, the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids lists some reasons why teens may experiment with drugs and alcohol:

  • Access – Teenagers see a lot of people using various substances. Coupled with peer pressure, drug and alcohol use can seem to be a normal part of the teenage experience.
  • Popular media – A study by the Journal of Medical Internet Research showed that only 9% of the audience (primarily 17 – 19 year olds) of a popular pro-marijuana handle associated risky health behaviors with drugs and alcohol use. The rest of the perceptions were positive and correlated substance abuse as light-hearted and humorous.
  • Escape and self-medication – The teenage years are notorious for roller coaster-like emotions, a fluctuating sense of self-worth, and in many instances depression. Given a chance to take something that may alleviate these negative emotions, many can’t resist.
  • Boredom – To fill a void, kill time, or simply to relate to like-minded teens, alcohol and drugs may provide a quick cure for boredom and a path towards bonding with peers.
  • Rebellion – Rebellion may be manifested in the use of drugs and alcohol.
  • Lack of confidence – As adults, we’re familiar with the term “liquid courage.” The same principle applies to teens who are shy, lack confidence, and don’t naturally fit in. The use of drugs and alcohol can be seen as a solution to social anxiety.
  • Misinformation – Friends are powerful influencers and teens can oftentimes be willing to believe a friend’s misinformation about substances like marijuana, alcohol, pills, or even LSD.

Adolescent drug use can have long-lasting effects on the developing brain and may interfere with family, positive peer relationships, and school performance. Prevention through education, communication, and resources like NIDA for teens can boost awareness and understanding about how substance abuse and addiction can affect both life and work.

In this series, we continue to add facts to the conversation and help to better inform parents, caretakers, educators, employers, and those who may be struggling with addiction and substance-abuse disorders. To learn more about this series, read our introductory post.

If you or someone you know is unable to stop using drugs or alcohol, seek a referral from your primary care physician or locate an addiction specialist through the American Society of Addiction Medicine.

To learn about common drugs of abuse, visit our website or contact us online.

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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Some Drug Users Can’t Distinguish Between Right and Wrong

August 17, 2016Illicit drugs

Aside from being dangerous and highly addictive, cocaine and methamphetamine may also affect the moral judgment of users. Results from a recent study conducted by Psychopharmacology – an international journal that covers the elucidating mechanisms by which drugs affect behavior – revealed that habitual cocaine and methamphetamine users can have difficulty distinguishing between right and […]

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Spotlight on the Prescription Drug Epidemic

June 16, 2016News

Autopsy results released earlier this month confirmed that a fentanyl overdose was the cause of death for 57 year old, multi-platinum recording artist – Prince. The death of such a prominent pop culture figure generated media headlines across the world, helping to bring public awareness about the prescription drug epidemic our country is facing. MarketWatch […]

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Does Workplace Drug Testing Work?

April 15, 2016News

As marijuana becomes more widely accepted, some are questioning if workplace drug testing for marijuana and other illicit drugs is appropriate or even necessary. Some argue that the so-called “war on drugs” is over and, therefore, drug testing provides no value. Yet, the reality is that there is a wealth of empirical research conducted by […]

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Wall Street Journal Reports Rising Workplace Drug Use

June 15, 2015News

The Wall Street Journal published the latest Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index™ data with a headline declaring that “Workers’ Drug Use Appears to Rise.”  Lauren Weber, WSJ Careers Reporter, wrote that the numbers reflect the reversal of a long trend of declining drug use among workers. Before 2013, drug test positives had dropped nearly every year […]

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Drug Testing Index: Illicit Drug Test Positivity Rate Increases

June 3, 2015News

The Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index™ (DTI) reveals insights into patterns of drug use among the American workforce. Published annually for more than 25 years, the Drug Testing Index examines positivity rates for workplace drug tests. Quest reports these findings as a public service for government, employers, policymakers and the general public. In examining the […]

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Series: Assessing Drug Use Trends in the United States – Amphetamines

April 17, 2015News

Due to the increasing use and abuse of illicit and prescription drugs, employers, public policy decision makers, law enforcement, media and the general public all have an interest in assessing past, current and emerging drug use trends. As such, this installment in our Assessing Drug Use Trends in the United States series uses several renowned […]

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Introducing Express Results™ Online

February 23, 2015News

Do you need to quickly determine if a job candidate is drug-free? Do you want a test panel that screens for a variety of commonly-used drugs? Would you prefer to let a trained collector administer the drug test? Quest Diagnostics now offers Express Results Online, an instant, urine drug testing solution designed to deliver fast, dependable results – […]

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