More U.S. workers are testing positive for marijuana while the number testing positive for opioids continues to decline, according to the annual Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index.
Based on an analysis of nine million drug tests conducted in 2018, Quest determined that 5.1 percent of the general workforce tested positive for drugs and another 2.7 percent of workers in safety-sensitive positions regulated by federal law did so. Those in safety-sensitive jobs include pilots; rail, bus and truck drivers; and workers in nuclear power plants.
The combined data from the general and safety-sensitive workforce demographics show that, overall, 4.4 percent of the U.S. workforce had positive drug screens in 2018, the highest such rate since 2004 but a far cry from Quest’s first drug-testing analysis in 1988, when the drug positivity rate was 13.6 percent.
The 2018 data show a continuing trend of increased marijuana use among workers: The number of workers and job applicants who tested positive for marijuana climbed 10 percent last year to 2.3 percent. Positive test results for urine testing of marijuana, the most common type of testing done, continue to rise both for the general U.S. workforce and in regulated, safety-sensitive industries. Positive test results rose 8 percent for the general workforce to 2.8 percent and increased 5 percent for those in safety-sensitive jobs to 0.88 percent.
In the general U.S. workforce, the positivity rate for opiates (mostly codeine and morphine) in urine drug testing declined nearly 21 percent in 2018 to 0.31 percent, the largest drop in three years.
“Our analysis shows that marijuana is not only present in our workforce, but use continues to increase,” said Barry Sample, senior director of science and technology at Quest Diagnostics. “As marijuana policy changes and employers consider strategies to protect their employees, customers and general public, employers should weigh the risks that drug use, including marijuana, poses to their business.”
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