Workforce drug positivity rates hit a 16-year high in 2019, with positive marijuana test rates climbing by double digits across almost all testing categories, according to Quest Diagnostics’ annual Drug Testing Index.

Positivity rates in the U.S. workforce increased in urine drug tests to 4.5%, the highest level since 2003, and more than 28% higher than the 30-year low of 3.5% that occurred from 2010 to 2012.

Marijuana continues to take the top spot as most commonly detected illicit substance in all testing methods – urine, oral fluid and hair – and across the entire U.S. workforce.

Positivity for marijuana increased by almost 11% in urine testing – 2.8% in 2018 compared to 3.1% in 2019 – and by 29% since 2015.

Opiate positivity in urine drug tests continued to decline in 2019, with a drop of more than 19%, from 0.31% in 2018 to 0.25% in 2019.

Several industries saw significant increases in positives, with Retail Trade having the highest overall positivity rate for the past five years, climbing from 5.1% in 2015 to 5.5% in 2019.

Impact of COVID-19

Drug deaths increased by about 13% in the first few months of 2020, due in part to social isolation and other disruptions caused by COVID-19, Quest states.

Quest acknowledges workplace drug positivity rates were going in the wrong direction before the coronavirus pandemic, but “the enormous strain caused by COVID-19 may prove to be an accelerant on this disturbing trend.”

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About the Author

Jon Knight

Jon Knight leads the NASP Team’s media creation department. He has been involved with workplace safety training since 2017 with a focus on course creation. He also provides video production and voiceovers for NASP content.
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