Marijuana workforce drug test positivity continues double-digit increases to keep overall drug positivity rates at historically high levels
First Large-Scale National Analysis of Workforce Drug Testing During the COVID-19 Pandemic, Based on More Than 9 Million Drug Tests in 2020
Stark Differences in Positivity Between States that Permit Recreational Marijuana Use with Either Medical Use and No Legal Marijuana States
Marijuana Positivity Rate of Post-Accident Test Results Grew Faster Than Rate for Pre-Employment Testing
Secaucus, NJ, May 26, 2021 - The COVID-19 pandemic did not dampen workforce drug testing positivity for marijuana, which continued to increase last year in the general U.S. workforce, according to a new analysis released today by Quest Diagnostics, the world's leading provider of diagnostic information services. This study is thought to be the first large-scale analysis of de-identified results of laboratory workforce drug tests performed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The overall positivity rate in the combined U.S. workforce based on more than seven million urine drug tests collected between January and December 2020 was down only slightly in 2020 (4.4%) compared to 2019 (4.5%, a sixteen-year high). Positivity in the federally mandated, safety-sensitive workforce based on more than 2 million urine drug tests declined 8.3 percent (2.4% in 2019 versus 2.2% in 2020) but was still 10 percent higher than the 2016 rate (5 years prior). In the general U.S. workforce, positivity increased 3.8 percent (5.3% in 2019 versus 5.5% in 2020) and was 12.2 percent higher than in 2016.
As positivity for most drug categories, other than marijuana, declined or remained flat in the combined U.S. workforce over the past five years, amphetamines (which includes methamphetamine) persisted at 1.1 percent positive each year.
The new findings of the Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index™ were unveiled to coincide with the National Drug & Alcohol Screening Association (NDASA) 2021 Annual Conference taking place May 25-27 in St. Louis, MO.
“Driven largely by surging rates of marijuana general U.S. workforce positives and steady rates of amphetamines positives, the rate of drug positivity remained stubbornly high despite seismic shifts to the workplace caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Barry Sample, Ph.D., senior director of science and technology, Quest Diagnostics. “However, as we see upticks in hiring and many employees returning to the workplace, it is important that employers consider workforce drug testing as a way to keep the workplace, their customers and the community safe.”
“Impairment, whether it be by drugs, alcohol, fatigue or stress, decreases the safety of the workforce,” said Jenny Burke, senior director of impairment practice, National Safety Council. “The DTI results, reflecting decreases in many drug categories, occurred in a unique year. Even though these are down, we must continue to educate people about the impairing impacts of these substances. And, as states and the federal government consider changes to the legality of marijuana, we can’t take for granted that they also understand the impairing impact of THC. The safety of people who share the roadways and workplaces with impaired people needs to be a priority.”
For an interactive map with positivity rates and trend lines by three-digit zip code in the United States, visit DTIDrugMap.com.
Positivity down or flat for most drug categories, but increase for ecstasy
Positivity rates declined in federally mandated, safety-sensitive workforce testing categories
Marijuana continued double-digit year-over-year increases in the general U.S. workforce, with lower positivity rates in states with only medical marijuana use or no form of legalized marijuana use versus states with legalized recreational statutes
The positivity rate of post-accident test results grew faster than the rate of positivity for pre-employment testing
Between 2012 when the first state legalized recreational marijuana, and 2020, the gap between pre-employment and post-accident marijuana positivity increased each year. In the U.S. general workforce, in 2012, marijuana pre-employment positivity was 1.9 percent and post-accident positivity was 2.4 percent (a 26.3% difference). In 2020, pre-employment marijuana positivity was 3.7 percent and post-accident 6.4 percent (a 73% difference).
“The Drug Testing Index data shows states with recreational marijuana statutes have significantly higher positivity and the year-over-year differences between recreational states and states with medical and no legalization statutes has grown. In addition, while urine drug testing cannot determine whether an individual is under the influence or impaired at the time of test, our post-accident data suggests that marijuana use may play a role in those workplace incidents prompting a drug test,” Dr. Sample said.
Cocaine positivity lowest since 2012 general U.S. workforce
Urine drug test positivity for cocaine in the general U.S. workforce dropped to the lowest level since 2012. Positivity for cocaine declined 18.5 percent (0.27% in 2019 versus 0.22% in 2020). Positivity for cocaine over the past five years declined 21.4 percent (0.28% in 2016 versus 0.22% in 2020).
Workforce positivity increased significantly in multiple industries
The Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index™ Industry Insights of general U.S. workforce positivity rates, based on more than 17 million urine drug test results between 2016 and 2020, shows year-over-year increases in overall workplace drug positivity in 6 of the 17 sectors reported. The Retail Trade industry had the highest overall positivity rates for all drug categories across all five years of the analysis (5.1% in 2016, 5.2% in 2017, 5.4% in 2018, 5.5% in 2019 and 6.2% in 2020). Accommodation and Food Services tied with Retail Trade for the highest positivity in 2020 alone (4.7% in 2016, 4.6% in 2017, 4.9% in 2018, 5.1% in 2019 and 6.2% in 2020). The Accommodations and Food Service category had the highest workforce positivity for marijuana at 6.3 percent, a relative increase of 96.9 percent over five years (3.2% in 2016 versus 6.3% in 2020).
Workforce drug testing webinar
Barry Sample, PhD, senior director of science and technology, for Quest Diagnostics, will discuss the latest data from the Drug Testing Index and an analysis of workforce marijuana testing via webinar on Wednesday, June 16 at 12 pm EDT/11 am CDT. Click here to register and attend.
About the Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index™
The Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index™ (DTI) is a series of reports that provide insights into trends in workforce drug use based on positivity rates of de-identified 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 workforce; and the combined U.S. workforce. Federally mandated, safety-sensitive workers include pilots, bus and truck drivers, and workers in nuclear power plants, for whom routine drug testing is mandated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
About Quest Diagnostics
Quest Diagnostics empowers people to take action to improve health outcomes. Derived from the world's largest database of clinical lab results, our diagnostic insights reveal new avenues to identify and treat disease, inspire healthy behaviors and improve health care management. Quest annually serves one in three adult Americans and half the physicians and hospitals in the United States. Our 50,000 employees understand that, in the right hands and with the right context, our diagnostic insights can inspire actions that transform lives. QuestDiagnostics.com.
Download the Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index report with full year 2020 tables.
For more information, see the DTI charts and maps below.
- Annual Positivity Rates - Urine Drug Tests for Combined U.S. Workforce
- Positivity Rates by Testing Category - Urine Drug Tests
- Positivity Rates by Testing Reason - Urine Drug Tests for Federally Mandated, Safety-Sensitive Workforce
- Positivity Rates by Testing Reason - Urine Drug Tests for General U.S. Workforce
- Positivity Rates by Drug Category - Urine Drug Tests for Federally Mandated, Safety-Sensitive Workforce
- Positivity Rates by Drug Category - Urine Drug Tests for General U.S. Workforce
- Positivity Rates by Drug Category - Urine Drug Tests for Combined U.S. Workforce
- Non-Negative Rates by Specimen Validity Test (SVT) Category - Urine Drug Tests for Federally Mandated, Safety-Sensitive Workforce
- Non-Negative Rates by SVT Category - Urine Drug Tests for General U.S. Workforce
- Non-Negative Rates by Drug/ SVT Category - Urine Drug Tests for Federally Mandated, Safety-Sensitive Workforce
- Non-Negative Rates by Drug/ SVT Category - Urine Drug Tests for General U.S. Workforce
- Non-Negative Rates by Drug/ SVT Category - Urine Drug Tests for Combined U.S. Workforce
- Positivity by Testing Category - Oral Fluid Drug Tests for U.S. General Workforce
- Positivity by Testing Reason - Oral Fluid Drug Tests for U.S. General Workforce
- Positivity by Drug Category - Oral Fluid Drug Tests for U.S. General Workforce
- Positivity by Testing Category - Hair Drug Tests for U.S. General Workforce
- Positivity by Testing Reason - Hair Drug Tests for U.S. General Workforce
- Positivity by Drug Category - Hair Drug Tests for U.S. General Workforce
- Map of the U.S. depicting overall drug test positivity
- Map of the U.S. depicting 6-AM (heroin metabolite) positivity
- Map of the U.S. depicting amphetamine positivity
- Map of the U.S. depicting cocaine positivity
- Map of the U.S. depicting marijuana positivity
- Map of the U.S. depicting opiates positivity
- Map of the U.S. depicting phencyclidine (PCP) positivity