Flying High: Cocaine Positives Spike 33%

The annual Drug Testing Index, released by Quest Diagnostics this week, reveals a 33% jump in cocaine positives in the safety-sensitive workforce, largely driven by new, lower cutoff rules implemented by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

Amphetamines positives among this group also rose by nearly 26%, continuing an existing upward trend, but also likely boosted by better detection related to the new, lower, Federally-mandated cutoffs.

The findings are based on 1.6 million federally mandated, safety-sensitive workforce drug tests performed by Quest Diagnostics between January and December 2011.

First published in 1988, the Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index is a benchmark for national trends. It examines positivity rates – the proportion of positive results for each drug to all such drug tests performed – among three major testing populations: federally-mandated, safety-sensitive workers, the general workforce, and the combined U.S. workforce.

Key Findings

Among the 4.8 million tests in the general U.S. workforce from January to December 2011, amphetamines positives are up 16.7% from 2010 (0.66% vs. 0.77%) and up 75% since 2007. Cocaine positivity is up 8% from 2010 (0.25% vs. 0.27%) in the general workforce, also partially driven by some private sector employers adopting the new Federal standard.

Positivity rates for oxycodone from more than 500,000 tests in the general U.S. workforce are 10% higher than in 2010 (1.0% vs. 1.1%) and up 25% since 2007.

Positivity for opiates in the general workforce is up nearly 7.7% from 2010 (0.39% vs. 0.42%) and up 20% since 2007.

Positivity for propoxyphene in the general workforce was down 84.7% from 2010 (0.38% vs. 0.06%). Propoxyphene was pulled off the market in November 2010 because the drug was found to put patients at risk for potentially serious or even fatal heart rhythm abnormalities.

View the complete Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index (47 KB PDF)

Data Security Update: Most Cyber Attacks Preventable through Basic Countermeasures

Most data breaches result from lapses in common-sense precautionary measures as opposed to high levels of sophistication on the part of hackers, according to the annual report on data breaches issued this week by Verizon.

The report concluded that in 97 percent of data breach instances, relatively simple methods were employed by hackers to gain access, and 80 percent of the attacks were crimes of opportunity as opposed to campaigns against specifically-targeted companies.

“Ninety-seven percent (of breaches) were avoidable, without the need for organizations to resort to difficult or expensive countermeasures,” the report said.

In many cases the breached companies had poor or no password policies, with easy-to-guess or default passwords, open ports to the web or had no firewalls in place.

Researchers found that while breaching a company’s data infrastructure generally occurred through relatively simple exploits, the hackers’ demonstrated higher levels of sophistication when actually navigating within and stealing data.

After breaking in, hackers installed malware that enabled them to manipulate permission and access privileges, set up backdoors, remote control companies’ networks and find and extract sensitive data. Hackers showed adeptness at remaining undetected for extended periods and exiting leaving little or no trace.

The report’s conclusions were based on investigation and analysis of more than 850 known data breaches during 2011 and were compiled by Verizon in conjunction with the U.S. Secret Service, law enforcement agencies in the UK, Australia, Ireland and the Netherlands.

View A full copy of the report (2.2 MB PDF)