As marijuana use becomes legal in more communities across the country and urgent care providers (among others) get the message that opioid prescriptions have been far too prevalent, the nature of positive drug tests in the U.S. workforce seems to be changing with the times. Based on more than 10 million workplace drug test results in 2018, Quest Diagnostics reports growth in positive results for marijuana, while positive results for most opiates were down vs previous years. Significantly, however, positive results in tests that followed a workplace accident were more prevalent than any other testing periods, including during pre-employment screenings. In 2018, 4.4% of all drug tests were positive, the highest rate since 2004 (4.5%). While that modest difference may not seem like cause for alarm, the 2018 figure is a full 10% higher than the 30-year low recorded between 2010 and 2012 (when 3.5% of workplace drug tests were positive). Further, the postaccident positive test rate is up 29% compared with 5 years ago. Of particular note for urgent care operators who provide occupational medicine services to workforces classified as “safety-sensitive” by the federal government, positivity for postaccident urine testing surged more than 51% year-over-year (3.1% in 2017 vs 4.7% in 2018) in that population. Tracking back to what substances are involved overall, there has been a 16% increase in positive tests for marijuana since 2014, but a 37% decrease in positive tests for opiates (mostly codeine and morphine) since 2015. In its summary of the results, Quest attributed the results to changes in marijuana policy. If you offer occ med services, be mindful of these trends when treating or assessing workers who have been involved in a workplace accident. And if you don’t offer such services at present, consider using these data as rationale for local business to engage you to do so.
Current Drug Test Data Reflect New Trends in Opioid and Marijuana Use Among Workers