According to drug testing analysis based on more than 11 million drug test lab results conducted throughout 2021 by Quest Diagnostics, the rate of drug test positivity across the combined U.S. workforce hit a two-decade high last year. This is 30% higher than recorded all-time lows in 2010-2012, bringing added recruiting complexity to HR professionals hiring for safe, healthy workplaces.
A closer look at workforce drug use
The Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index Analysis looks at the combined U.S. workforce including private employers with company testing policies, as well as federally mandated, safety-sensitive positions such as federal employees and transportation positions like pilots, forklift operators, etc. The overall positivity rate for this combined workforce was 4.6% in 2021, up from 4.4% in 2020. In comparison to just a decade ago between 2010 and 2012, overall positivity was 3.5%.
And, as you might imagine, marijuana positivity continues to represent much of the increase. Over five years, positivity for marijuana in the overall U.S. workforce increased 50% (2.6% in 2017 versus 3.9% in 2021).
When looking at the federally mandated, safety-sensitive workforce only, Quest reports steady numbers between 2022 and 2021 at 2.2% positivity. However, among this group, there were slight rises in positivity results for marijuana (0.79% in 2020 to 0.86% in 2021), amphetamines (0.64% in 2020 to 0.69% in 2021), and cocaine (0.20% in 2020 to 0.21% in 2021).
- Urine positivity rates for post-accident testing (marijuana, cocaine, and semi-synthetic opiates) increased at a greater rate than pre-employment testing over five years
- General U.S. workforce urine drug testing, pre-employment positivity increased 17.4% (4.6% in 2017, 5.4% in 2021) and post-accident positivity increased 26% (7.7% in 2017, 9.7% in 2021)
- Federally mandated, safety-sensitive workforce urine drug testing, pre-employment positivity increased 9.5% (2.1% in 2017, 2.3% in 2021) while post-accident positivity increased 41.9% (3.1% in 2017, 4.4% in 2021)
Drug use by industry
Overall positivity rates increased in 16 out of 17 identified industries between 2017 and 2021. The Retail Trade industry reported the highest positivity rate in 2021 at 7%, resulting in a nearly 35% increase since 2017. And again, as you might expect, marijuana positivity increased in all industries from 2017 to 2021. The Accommodation and Food Service industry had the highest workforce positivity for marijuana at 7.5%, an increase over 3.5% in 2017.
What to make of this information
Today, the workforce is certainly fueled by shifting attitudes on drug use. The decriminalization of marijuana specifically is a country-wide evolution in legislation as a growing number of states and jurisdictions allow marijuana for both medical and recreational use. Across all age groups, from Gen Z to Boomers, perceptions are changing. Over time, there will be decisions to be made as companies balance their requirement for drug testing policies with the management of workplace risk from drug use, including workplace accidents, absenteeism, and noticeable decreases in productivity.
Here at A-Check Global, we welcome the opportunity to speak with you about your drug testing program. We are always available to discuss your business needs and share drug testing best practices with you based on similar client activity within your industry. Evolution of your program may be as simple as making slight adjustments to your drug testing panel or implementing quick solutions like oral fluid testing to help you make immediate employment decisions on-site.
We understand that in the midst of the Great Resignation, it’s tough enough to find and retain top talent. We’re here to help make your recruiting process as easy as possible. This includes convenient, compliant, and candidate-friendly drug testing solutions to keep your recruiting process as smooth and pain free as possible.
Got questions? We love that. Please don’t hesitate to reach out and let us know how we can help.