Apr 14, 2019
Uh-Oh! Drug use is on the rise in the workplace
This past week, Quest Diagnostics (NYSE:DGX), a leading diagnostic testing firm, and the company responsible for testing millions of Americans a year in the workplace for illicit substances, released its latest analysis, known as the Drug Testing Index, on workplace drug usage. Having tested more than 10 million urine samples in 2018, Quest found that 4.4% resulted in a positive test, which includes a combination of illicit (i.e., illegal) drugs and prescription medicines. This 4.4% workforce positivity rate is a 14-year high, and it's a 25% increase from the all-time low of 3.5% recorded between 2010 and 2012.
What's driving higher workplace drug use? According to data from Quest Diagnostics, it's not oxycodones, opiates, heroin, or cocaine. For the general population and safety-sensitive workers (e.g., truck or bus drivers, mechanics, pharmacists, nurses, and so on), usage of these illicit and/or prescribed medications has fallen or been relatively steady between 2012 and 2018.
Meanwhile, amphetamine and marijuana use has risen significantly over the same period. Just over 1% of the general population now tests positive for amphetamines, up from just under 1% in 2012. But the biggest increase is seen with the cannabis positivity rate, which has increased by 40% between 2012 and 2018 to 2.8% among the general population. It rose ever so slightly to 0.88% from 0.84% for safety-sensitive workers between 2017 and 2018. Combining the two categories, the national positivity rate in the workforce for urine tests was 2.3% last year.
Should we be blaming cannabis for this increase?
Just as concerning is that positivity following an accident has been increasing substantially. As Quest noted, "In the federally mandated, safety-sensitive workforce, positivity for post-accident urine testing jumped more than 51% year over year (3.1% in 2017 versus 4.7% in 2018) and increased by nearly 81% between 2014 and 2018." But the report is clear that prescription opiates were the primary driver in 2018.
This, of course, isn't the case with a handful of recent state-level studies. One 2018 study from the Highway Loss Data Institute finds that while fatalities aren't necessarily up as a result of cannabis use, crashes in recreationally legal states are. In Washington, Oregon, and Colorado, crash statistics have risen as much as 6% since weed was fully legalized.
For complete story - This new data brings to light a number of bigger problems.