The Washington Post

Mapping Drug Use in the U.S. Workforce

by Nicole Jupe on June 9, 2017

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 prevalent this year with workplace drug use at a 12-year high.

Powered by data from the Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index™ (DTI), our new interactive map illustrates workplace urine drug test positivity by drug type for the past 10 years. You can search all 50 states for the six of the most common illicit substances: 6-AM (heroin metabolite), amphetamines, cocaine, marijuana, opiates, and phencyclidine (PCP.) This innovative tool drills down to positivity percentages by 3-digit zip code and helps to depict regional, drug, and time-based positivity rate changes.

Reporters covering latest DTI findings used the map to compare local drug use trends to the national average, which vary by state and by drug preference. For example:

  • The Washington Post reported that the first two states to legalize marijuana, Colorado and Washington, outpaced the national average for urine drug test marijuana positivity.
  • Illinois’ positive drug test rate matched the national average, though employees’ drugs of choice vary widely in different parts of the state, according to The Chicago Tribune.
  • Positivity rates were higher than the national 4.2 percent positivity rate in Kansas (5.1 percent) and Missouri (4.9 percent), wrote The Kansas City Star.
  • Baltimore workers tested positive 2.5 times more often for heroin than workers nationally and more than 30 percent more often than the national average for marijuana, according to The Baltimore Sun.
  • Alabama and Oregon had the highest rates of drug use with 6.3 percent, and Hawaii had the lowest rates at just 2.7 percent, reported Vice.
  • California’s positivity rate of 3.9 percent was lower than the national rate, according to Daily Republic.
  • Four percent of New York workers tested positive for drugs in 2016, which is lower than the national average according to Newsday.
  • NJ.com reported that a greater percentage of New Jersey employees flunked their work-related drug tests last year than in at any point since 2002.

To see how your hometown ranks, search by zip code at QuestDiagnostics.com/DrugMap.

Download the Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index brochure.

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 QuestDiagnostics.com/DrugMap.

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, Human 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 QuestDiagnostics.com/DTI or contact us online.

Drug Positivity Rises in the Railroad Industry

September 19, 2016Drug Testing

Drug testing has some early origins in the railroad industry. In 1987, two trains collided in Chase, Maryland killing 12 and making it the deadliest crash in Amtrak’s history. After learning that the crew of the train that failed to stop tested positive for marijuana, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) swiftly overhauled its drug and alcohol […]

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