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May 8, 2018 1:45 PM, EDT
Quest Analysis: Drug Use Among Workers Holds at High Rate
Marijuana leaf Trevor Hagan/Bloomberg News

Driven by increases in cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana, drug use in 2017 by the general U.S. workforce held steady at its highest rate in more than a decade, according to an analysis by drug test lab Quest Diagnostics.

Quest said that the nationwide positivity rate of 10 million workers it tested last year remained at 4.2%, the same as 2016, but a dramatic increase over the 3.5% rate for 2012, a 30-year low.

The analysis includes, but does not specifically break down, drug use for the nation’s transportation industry and truck drivers, a Quest spokesman said.

Nationally, the positivity rate for opiates among workers in urine drug testing declined 17% in 2017 from the prior year.

Quest’s analysis of 2017 data also documents shifting patterns of drug use, with cocaine and amphetamine positivity surging in some areas of the country and marijuana positivity rising sharply in states with newer recreational-use statutes.

Quest Drug Testing Index Tables 5-8-2018 by Transport Topics on Scribd

“It’s unfortunate that we mark 30 years of the Drug-Free Workplace Act with clear evidence that drugs continue to invade the country’s workplaces. Not only have declines appeared to have bottomed out, but also in some drug classes and areas of the country drug-positivity rates are increasing,” Barry Sample, Quest’s senior director for science and technology, said in a statement. “These changing patterns and geographical variations may challenge the ability of employers to anticipate the ‘drug of choice’ for their workforce or where to best focus their drug prevention efforts to ensure a safe and healthy work environment.”

The Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index examines test results according to three categories of workers: federally mandated, safety-sensitive workers; the general workforce; and the combined U.S. workforce.

Federally mandated, safety-sensitive workers include pilots, bus and truck drivers, workers in nuclear power plants and workers required to submit to drug tests by the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Quest Diagnostics said it has analyzed annual workplace drug testing data since 1988.