The number of employees who are failing drug tests in the United States is rising. An analysis was conducted on a group of 7.6 million urine-based drug screenings obtained from Quest Diagnostics. This examination revealed a failure rate of 3.7 percent, which is a five percent increase from 3.5 percent in 2012. This increase is the first time that the rate has changed since 2003. Among an additional 800,000 oral fluid drug screenings, 6.7 percent came back positive — a significant increase from 4.2 percent in 2009. Hair follicle tests also exhibited a large increase at 7.4 percent, which shows a 25 percent increase from just a year ago.
Barry Sample, Director of Science and Technology for Quest Diagnostics Employer Solutions, has stated that the failure rate among American drug tests has increased for the first time in a decade. He also noted “this increase indicates that employers should be aware of the potential for drug use by their workers and the risk that represents for the health and safety of their employees and the public.”
Areas of notable change
Marijuana continues to top the list of most commonly detected illegal drugs and accounts for almost half of all failed drug tests. Tests that showed positive results for marijuana increased by 1.7 percent in 2013. Washington and Colorado are two states that have made recreational marijuana use legal this past year. Both states saw very dramatic jumps in the number of failed drug tests. The two states also experienced an increase of 20 percent or higher in marijuana-positive drug tests since 2012, compared to the national average, which is 5 percent. Researchers state that this increase isn’t necessarily a direct result of the legalization of marijuana in those states, as they noted that Washington and Colorado both saw large increases in positive tests for marijuana even prior to its legalization at the end of 2012.
In response to this issue, Sample stated: “It is important for people to remember that while some states have legalized marijuana, the federal government has not … Employers generally have the authority to restrict the ‘recreational’ use of marijuana by employees and impose sanctions, including termination, on employees with positive drug tests in all 50 states.”
While marijuana use among employees has risen, amphetamine use has also increased among American workers. Research has shown a 10 percent jump in the number of drug tests testing positive for amphetamines in 2014 alone.
Despite the dramatic and tragic rise of prescription drug abuse across the country over the past decade, the number of failed drug tests that were positive for oxycodone has decreased for the second year in a row. The number of oxycodone-positive drug tests has decreased 12.7 percent between 2011 and 2012, and 8.3 percent between 2012 and 2013.
This data does not take into account the fact that the presence of a prescription drug is discarded if the person can verify that they are prescribed it. While these statistics may not reflect the growing abuse of prescription drugs, Sample mentions the fact that independent studies have shown that between 65 percent and 80 percent of positive tests for legally prescribed drugs are discarded just for this reason. If the employee can verify their prescription, the test results show that they tested negative to the employer. Even when a verified prescription is present, employers often may never really know if the worker’s use of the prescription drug is justifiable. Also drug tests do not generally detect whether or not an employee is taking the medically recommended dosage of the drug.
Drug abuse in the workplace has been ongoing issue in our country and luckily, many employees are able to attend treatment with help from their insurance, which is provided their employers. Sovereign Health Group is among the leading and most well-renowned addiction treatment centers in the country. We offer various inpatient and outpatient treatment programs for patients struggling with drug and alcohol addiction, mental health disorders and dual diagnosis. If you know someone who is struggling with drug addiction and is in need of addiction treatment, please do not hesitate to call us at 888-530-4614 to speak to one of our treatment specialists and findi the right treatment option for you.
Written by Benjamin Creekmore, Sovereign Health Group writer