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U.S. workers testing positive for illicit drugs at highest rate in 12 years

According to a report from Quest Diagnostics – one of the largest independent diagnostic service providers – the share of U.S. workers testing positive for illicit drug use has reached its highest level in 12 years.

Quest’s Annual Drug Testing Index analyzed more than 10 million workforce drug test results and found that positivity rates for illicit drugs – ranging from marijuana to heroin to amphetamines – increased for both the general workforce and for federally regulated safety-sensitive positions such as pilots, truck drivers and nuclear power plant employees.

Overall, 4.2 percent of the more than 10 million employees who submitted to urine-based drug tests in 2016 tested positive for illicit drugs, marking the highest annual positivity rate since 2004.

The Drug Testing Index’s findings show “increased rates of drug positivity for the most common illicit drugs across virtually all drug test specimen types and in all testing populations,” said Barry Sample, Ph.D., senior director, science and technology, Quest Diagnostics Employer Solutions.

The report details upward trends in positive test results for cocaine (up 12 percent in 2016), marijuana (up nearly 75 percent since 2013) and amphetamines (up 64 percent since 2012), while noting a plateau in detection for heroin and a decline in prescription opiate detection.

Quest’s report highlights the need for employers to implement and conduct a thorough drug screening program, however, due to a number of issues and recent developments that protect applicants and employees in the drug screening context, it is equally important for employers to remain vigilant of these trends and potential issues to ensure their policies are both effective and compliant. Our recent white paper “The Changing Face of Employment Drug Screening” outlines and discusses some of these often-overlooked legal requirements that may require you to re-evaluate your company’s drug screening practices.

Source: Quest Diagnostics, 5/16/2017

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