Relaxed attitudes toward marijuana use come at a time when the drug is more potent than ever. (J.J. Keller & Associates photo)

Retail, Health Care Had Highest 2017 Drug Positive Rates

"Our analysis suggests that employers can't assume that workforce drug use isn't an issue in their industry. In fact, drug test positivity in the majority of industry sectors analyzed is growing," said Barry Sample, Ph.D., senior director, science and technology, for Quest Diagnostics Employer Solutions. "The highest rates were in consumer-facing industries, including jobs in retail and health care and social assistance."

Drug use by the U.S. workforce increased each year, and by double digits over two years, between 2015 and 2017, in five of 16 major U.S. industry sectors analyzed, according to a first-ever analysis of industry-specific data from more than 10 million urine drug test results performed by Quest Diagnostics. The company announced Dec. 19 that data from the Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index™ industry analysis show that the Retail Trade (5.3 percent), Health Care and Social Assistance (4.7 percent), and Real Estate Rental and Leasing (4.6 percent) sectors had the highest overall positive rates in 2017, while the Utilities (2.8 percent) and Finance and Insurance (2.6 percent) sectors had the lowest rates.

The company's release said five sectors experienced year-over-year increases with a double-digit increase in their positive rates between 2015 and 2017: Transportation and Warehousing (21.4 percent increase); Other Services (Except Public Administration) (15.4 percent increase); Finance and Insurance (13 percent increase); Retail Trade (12.8 percent increase; and Wholesale Trade (11.8 percent increase). "Our analysis suggests that employers can't assume that workforce drug use isn't an issue in their industry. In fact, drug test positivity in the majority of industry sectors analyzed is growing," said Barry Sample, Ph.D., senior director, science and technology, for Quest Diagnostics Employer Solutions. "The highest rates were in consumer-facing industries, including jobs in retail and health care and social assistance."

Other important take-aways from the analysis include these:

  • Consistent with the annual Drug Testing Index report, marijuana was the most commonly detected substance, with the highest drug positivity rate of all drug classes across the majority of industry sectors. Marijuana positivity was highest in Accommodation and Food Services, at 3.5 percent in 2017, more than 34 percent higher than the national positivity rate of 2.6 percent for the general U.S. workforce.
  • Eight sectors experienced year-over-year increases with at least 20 percent increases in marijuana positivity rates between 2015 and 2017. They were Transportation and Warehousing, Other Services (except Public Administration), construction, wholesale trade, manufacturing, accommodation and food services, administrative support, waste management and remediation services, and retail trade.

"As companies consider strategies to protect their workplaces, they should also consider the risks that employees who use drugs present to their co-workers, customers, and the general public," said Kimberly Samano, Ph.D., scientific director, Employer Solutions, for Quest Diagnostics. "This new analysis suggests that an increasing number of applicants and employees across various industries may be misusing dangerous drugs."

Methamphetamine positivity was highest in the Construction sector in each of the three years analyzed and experienced a 15 percent increase during that period. And cocaine positivity was higher in most sectors in 2017 than it was in 2015.

The Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index™ (DTI) provides insights into trends in workforce drug use, based on positivity results for de-identified laboratory testing performed by Quest Diagnostics for a range of illicit, legal, and prescription drugs. It examines test results according to three categories of workers: federally mandated, safety-sensitive workers (FMSS); the general workforce; and the combined U.S. workforce. In 2018, the DTI introduced an industry analysis based on distinct industry sectors using NAICS codes. This analysis reflects laboratory urine drug test results for the U.S. general workforce and does not include the federally mandated safety-sensitive workforce.

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