MADISON, NJ - Drug use among American workers declined dramatically over the past 25 years, but the rate of positive test results for certain drugs, including amphetamine and opiates, continues to climb, says a new report. The findings should cause concern among wood manufacturing managers whose employees handle power tools and machinery, or drive  and truck deliveries are 

Quest Diagnostics, which issued the study on the 25th annniversary of its Drug Testing Index, credits the overall decline to passage of the 1988 federal Drug-Free Workplace Act. Quest, which administers workplace drug tests, examined the results of 125 million urine drug test it performed beginning in 1988. It also looked at drug use rates for employees in positions subject to certain federal safety regulations, such as truck drivers and train operators - federally mandated safety-sensitive workers - tested positive at various points in any given year.  

Overall the U.S. Workforce testing positive for drug use declined 74%, from 13.6% in 1988 to 3.5% in 2012. Despite that positive result, Quest's analysis also found that workers test positive more often for prescription opiates - given as pain relievers by doctors. Also on the rise or positive test results for amphetamines, including prescription medications such as Adderall, which has nearly tripled, up 196% in the last 10 years -a tend that mirrors the population overall. Quest Diagnostics tests for 20 commonly abused drugs, including marijuana, opiates and cocaine.

Amphetamine and methamphetamine positive test results in 2012,were at the highest level since 1997. Positivity rates - the frequency with which a worker tests positive over the course of a year- also rose dramatically for the drugs hydrocodone, hydromorphone, oxycodone and oxymorphone – more than doubling for hydrocodone and hydromorphone and up 71% for oxycodone – reflective of national prescribing trends.

A decline in drug positives for methamphetamine observed in 2005 roughly coincided with federal and state efforts to crackdown on so-called “meth labs” and put over-the-counter medicines – such as ephedrine and pseudoephedrine – behind the pharmacy counter.

"Drugs in the workforce contribute to industrial and other accidents, not to mention employer costs and liability,” said Mary Brown-Ybos, director of compliance for DISA Global Solutions, Inc., and president of Substance Abuse Program Administrators Association (SAPAA).  

The Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988 requires federal contractors and all federal grantees to agree to provide drug-free workplaces as a precondition of receiving a contract or grant from a federal agency.  

Positivity Rates By Drug Category – Urine Drug Tests

(For Federally Mandated, Safety-Sensitive Workforce, as a percentage of all such tests)
More than 1.7 million tests from January to December 2012

Drug Category

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

Amphetamines

0.26%

0.29%

0.35%

0.44%

0.48%

Cocaine

0.32%

0.24%

0.24%

0.32%

0.27%

Marijuana

0.77%

0.69%

0.69%

0.64%

0.63%

MDMA

 

 

0.005%1

0.003%

0.003%

Opiates

0.20%

0.21%

0.17%

0.18%

0.18%

PCP

0.04%

0.04%

0.04%

0.04%

0.03%

Drug Category

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

Amphetamine (Methamphetamines)

0.86%

1.2%

0.87%

0.91%

0.77%

Cocaine

4.2%

3.3%

2.3%

2.5%

2.3%

Marijuana

3.4%

3.0%

4.5%

4.8%

2.8%

Opiates

0.14%

0.15%

0.08%

0.15%

0.18%

PCP

0.00%

0.01%

0.01%

0.01%

 

0.01%

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