Quest Diagnostics’ 25th Anniversary Drug Testing Index reports a deep drop in drug use among American workers in the quarter century the Index has been published.  Based on over 125 urinalysis drug tests, the laboratory network and provider of diagnostic information said use had plummeted 75% since its data assessment initiative began shortly after passage of the 1988 federal Drug Free Workplace Act through 2012.  Among the more significant findings announced by Quest on November 18: 

  • “The positivity rate for the combined U.S. Workforce dropped from 13.6% in 1988 to 3.5% in 2012 (74%).
  • The positivity rate for the Federally Mandated Safety-Sensitive Workforce declined by 38% from 2.6% in 1992 to 1.6% in 2012.
  • The positivity rate for the U.S. General Workforce declined by 60%, from 10.3% in 1992 to 4.1% in 2012.”

Despite the overall decline, the positivity rate for certain drugs rose during this period.  Quest reports:

  • “Positivity rates for amphetamines (including amphetamine and methamphetamine) nearly tripled (196% higher) in the combined U.S. workforce and, in 2012, were at the highest level since 1997.  The positivity rate for amphetamine itself, including prescription medications such as Adderall®, has more than doubled in the last 10 years.
  • Positivity rates for prescription opiates, which includes the drugs hydrocodone, hydromorphine, oxycodone and oxymorphine, have also increased steadily over the last decade—more than doubling for hydrocodone and hydromorphine and up 71% for oxycodone—reflective of national prescribing trends.”

A 2012 report by Quest Diagnostics found that the majority of Americans misused their prescription medications, including opioids and amphetamine medications. 

The data suggests, in our opinion, that workplace drug testing, with its threat of disclosure and risk of disciplinary action and termination, has helped reduce markedly the positivity rates for illegal drugs over the last 25 years, but that employers’ testing programs must be reviewed periodically and revised to address the abuse of new and different drugs and controlled substances, and changes in laws and regulations.

The Jackson Lewis Drug Testing and Substance Abuse Management Practice Group assists employers in the review, revision and preparation of substance abuse policies to meet workplace needs and comply with applicable laws.