A silent epidemic has been brewing across the country. According to analysis from Quest Diagnostics, the number of U.S. workers testing positive for illicit drug use has hit a 10-year high. How would Quest Diagnostics come by this startling information? The company is charged with the actual drug testing of many U.S. workers, and the numbers are nothing short of alarming.
In samples taken from 11 million workers, Quest Diagnostics revealed that there was a 4 percent increase in positive results for urine drug tests in 2015. Last year, the increase rate was 3.9 percent. In 2010, the rate was 3.5 percent.
“Our nationally representative analysis clearly shows that drug use by the American workforce is on the rise, and this trend extends to several different classes of drugs and categories of drug tests,” Barry Sample, of Quest Diagnostics’ employer solutions unit, told HRE Daily.
“The 2015 findings related to post-accident testing results should also be of concern to employers, especially those with safety-sensitive employees.”
The policy of drug testing
Many companies have adopted drug-testing policies for their employees. To a certain extent, these policies were put in place to indemnify the company from potential lawsuits. This is extremely relevant in companies where public safety is on the line, such as transportation or food preparation. Drug tests can be taken as urine, hair, or saliva samples. These samples are then sent to an independent lab like Quest Diagnostics for analysis.
A company can opt for six basic types of drug tests:
- Reasonable Suspicion
- Return to Duty
The post-accident test numbers found on Quest’s Drug Test Index revealed that the rate of positive tests increased by 6.9 percent last year. That’s a rise of 30 percent from 2011, when the positive number was only at 5.3 percent.
Legality of drug testing
A company is perfectly within their rights to test potential and current employees for drugs. Although there are certain restrictions with regards to how these tests can be conducted, many states encourage drug testing by companies.
Also, these policies are not kept secret. Yes, the time of a random drug test might not be revealed, but those employees know it could happen at any moment. The insidious nature of substance abuse is such that a drug user will still go for that high despite the obvious risks.
As companies and the government review these statistics, the recurring question becomes: “Why is this happening?” Sadly, part of that answer can be found with eighth graders. A recent study conducted by the Maine Rural Health Research Center found that “the further you live from a city, the greater the risk that you will abuse methamphetamines.”
How much of a risk? Eighth graders in rural communities are 104 percent more likely to experiment with amphetamines, including meth. The numbers don’t stop there: 83 percent are more likely to use crack cocaine and up to 70 percent are more likely to have gotten drunk.
As these young adults get older, they find themselves moving into the workforce and colliding with drug-testing policies.
One of the issues surrounding drug testing of employees is whether states that have legalized marijuana use would see an increase in positive results for workers. According to the data, in Colorado and Washington where marijuana use is legal, there was no positive test result increase since 2014.
It would seem that companies who feared they would never be able to find “clean” workers in states that have legalized marijuana use have been doing just fine.
Tackling the problem
The best approach to tackling rising drug use among workers begins with the results of the drug test. The many detractors can’t argue with the facts about the increase. Fortunately, many of the companies who conduct those tests also offer treatment programs for their employees.
They are willing to provide opportunities for workers to get the help that they need to break the addiction cycle and return to work. Having a job waiting for the recovering substance abuser might just make the difference with their sobriety.
This article was written by Megan Ray Nichols. If you enjoyed this article, visit her page Schooled by Science.