U.S. employees are failing drug tests at a rate higher than any time since 2004, according to the latest yearly Drug Testing Index from Quest Diagnostics, a diagnostic information services firm. The findings, which were released in late May at the annual Drug and Alcohol Testing Industry Association (DATIA) conference in Orlando, Florida, were derived from an analysis of more than 10 million workforce drug test results.
The percentage of employees testing positive (4.2 percent) is within 0.3 percentage points of the all-time high (4.5 percent) and represents a statistically significant, 5 percent increase over the prior year. Equally concerning, the report indicated increased rates of positive tests across all drug test specimen types and all testing populations.
“Our analysis suggests that employers committed to creating a safe, drug-free work environment should be alert to the potential for drug use among their workforce,” said Barry Sample, PhD, senior director, science and technology, Quest Diagnostics Employer Solutions, in a press statement.
The increase in prescription drug abuse and the relaxation of marijuana laws in many locations are both factors that could be contributing to the problem—and leaving employers in an ever-more vulnerable position. Studies have shown that the residual effects of marijuana on the body, even after minimal use, can impair reflexes and judgment up to 48 hours later.
These results should serve to remind employers of the value of drug testing, not only pre-hire but also periodically during employment, especially for personnel in positions where mental clarity is vital. Employers should go over their drug policies with personnel and reiterate that even where marijuana use is legal, employers have the right to ensure a safe work environment. Barada recently posted a blog about the legality of marijuana use among employees. You can read it, here.