USA Workforce Sees Record High in Drug Test Positivity
An increase in positive drug tests for marijuana seen in the general U.S. workforce started the same year the first states legalized recreational use.
The percentage of employees in the general U.S. workforce testing positive for marijuana following an on-the-job accident increased to its highest level in 25 years in 2022, according to a new analysis by Quest Diagnostics.
The Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index™ (DTI) provides insights into trends in workforce drug use based on positivity rates of deidentified laboratory tests performed by Quest Diagnostics for a range of illicit, legal and prescription drugs. It examines test results according to three categories of workers: federally mandated, safety-sensitive workers; the general U.S. workforce; and the combined U.S. workforce. Federally mandated, safety-sensitive workers include pilots, bus and truck drivers, and workers in nuclear power plants.
In 2022, post-accident marijuana positivity of urine drug tests in the general U.S. workforce was 7.3%, an increase of 9% compared to 6.7% in 2021. The new peak follows a steady increase in post-accident marijuana positivity every year from 2012 to 2022. In that 10-year time frame, post-accident marijuana positivity increased 204.2%. From 2002 to 2009, post-accident marijuana workforce positivity declined.
These increases in post-accident marijuana positivity correspond with legalization of marijuana in certain states. In 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize marijuana for recreational use. Since then, 19 additional states and the District of Columbia have legalized the recreational use of marijuana and 38 states (plus DC) have legalized medical use, although either kind of use remains illegal under federal law.
“Intoxicating cannabis products, including marijuana, can have a major impact on safety at work and have been proven to slow reaction time, impact memory and impair skills essential to driving. State legalization of the drug creates new challenges for employers,” said Katie Mueller, a senior program manager at the National Safety Council focusing on cannabis safety. “The Quest data provide compelling evidence that increased use of cannabis products by employees can contribute to greater risk for injuries in the workplace. It is imperative employers take the proper steps to create and maintain a policy that addresses cannabis use, build a safety-focused culture and educate the workforce to keep all workers safe on and off the job.”
In 2022, the combined U.S. workforce urine drug positivity for all drugs persisted at 4.6% – the highest level in two decades. The 2021 and 2022 positivity rates were the highest since 2001, up more than 30% from an all-time low in 2010-2012.
While marijuana was the main driver of workforce positivity increases in the general U.S. workforce, amphetamines positivity also contributed to the increase. Positivity for marijuana in the general U.S. workforce increased 10.3% (4.3% positivity in 2022 versus 3.9% positivity in 2021) and amphetamines positivity increased 15.4% (1.5% positivity in 2022 versus 1.3% positivity in 2021). While the company’s amphetamines data does not differentiate between prescribed medications and illicit drug use, the increase correlates with other data suggesting that the use of amphetamines, prescribed or illicit, has grown in recent years in the U.S.