Kevin Morris 4m 936 #drugtests
The views of this article are the perspective of the author and may not be reflective of Confessions of the Professions.
Most people cite the familiar practice of drug testing for employment in the United States as a trend that started under U.S. President Ronald Reagan, who signed an executive order to require drug testing for federal employees. This practice gained even more ground during the drug war of the 1990s, eventually becoming common practice for many large-scale companies up to the present day. Many people see drug testing as an old relic of politics, while others see it as a monopoly of revenue for the companies that make the test kits. Despite the mixed opinions about the tests, the results show an interesting trend in America: Positive drug tests for workers in America are at a 20-year high.
A Quest Diagnostics study documents this trend. In this study, more than 11 million drug test results were analyzed from January to December 2021. These drug tests include results taken from pre-employment and post-accident samples, and while about 7 million of these tests were urine samples, the rest included either hair or oral swabs. Some of the interesting statistics noted from the findings include:
The year 2021 was over 30% higher than the 30-year low between 2010 and 2012.
Post-accident positivity rates were much higher than pre-employment positivity.
Sixteen industries saw overall positivity increase steadily from 2017 to 2021.
The totals in 2021 were at a 4.6% positivity but were still significantly lower than the 13.6% in 1988.
These statistics help put the overall trend of work-related drug use into a better perspective. However, these results are certainly not exhaustive. In general, the primary focus seems to be on work-related accidents while highlighting the fact that most of the increase is coming from the general work industry in the United States, not the federal or safety-sensitive workforce. With that said, a few more highlights are worth taking a look at, especially because they relate to specific drugs.
Among the testing performed, marijuana, cocaine, and methamphetamines lead the way. The marijuana increase was seen in all 17 industries, and 15 of them saw an increase in double digits, with transportation, warehousing, finance, and utilities among the most popular industries. This makes marijuana the clear leader among the other positive drugs found in Quest Diagnostic’s research. Ever since California led the way in the legalization of marijuana, many other states have followed suit, which means marijuana is at an overall increased rate of use nationwide.
Cocaine was the sole drug evaluated for post-accident versus pre-employment positivity rates, with a startling difference of over 266% for post-accident use. The demographics for cocaine addiction have always proven to be a mixed bag, and that continues to be the case in the report’s overall findings. While cocaine use increased 5% in the federal workforce, it has trended downward by almost 5% in the general workforce. Unlike marijuana’s upward trend, cocaine has been used in various ways during the past few years.
Methamphetamine, one of the most addictive substances in the world, saw two polar opposite trends. The highest industry for meth use was retail trade, and this trend has been a steady increase from 2017 to 2021. On the other end, the healthcare and social assistance industry has seen a steady downward trend in methamphetamine use.
Positive drug tests in the workforce indicate that no single drug type is a clear majority. Marijuana belongs to the psychedelic and depressant class, while meth and cocaine are both stimulant drugs. Even though marijuana use has increased across the board (most likely due to ongoing legalization), stimulant drug use seems to be gaining a foothold in surprising demographics while decreasing in others.
When taken together, this data shows us that drug use continues to be a problem in the United States. Drug addiction of any type in any industry can have devastating effects, especially if it shows up only after a work-related injury has taken place. With that said, the stereotypes or singular culprits we might be tempted to blame for the drug problem in America should be corrected in light of this data. It turns out that the moving pieces we tend to focus on are actually part of a complex picture of America’s drug use in the workplace.
The Atlantic. (2015, June 4). The Pointlessness of the Workplace Drug Test. Retrieved https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/06/drug-testing-effectiveness/394850/
Axios Dallas. (2022, Apr 20). Positive Drug Tests See Highest Rate in Two Decades. Retrieved https://www.axios.com/local/dallas/2022/04/20/positive-drug-tests-see-highest-rates-in-two-decades
Pr Newswire. Workforce Drug Test Positivity Climbs to Highest Level in Two Decades, Finds Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index Analysis. Retrieved https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/workforce-drug-test-positivity-climbs-to-highest-level-in-two-decades-finds-quest-diagnostics-drug-testing-index-analysis-301513730.html
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