Emerging Issues in Security, Facility Security, Policies and Training

Increase in Positive Drug Tests are a Security Concern

Drug use among employees is a broad concern for any organization, and with wide acceptance of medical marijuana and the legalization or decriminalization of recreational marijuana in many states, security (and HR) personnel can have difficulty navigating these changes. While public attitudes regarding marijuana use are shifting, serious concerns remain about the use and abuse of harder recreational drugs, and especially the widespread opiate crisis. In a new statement, Quest Diagnostics is reporting a double-digit increase in positive drug test results for transportation and warehousing workers over a two-year period.

Drugs and drug test report on a clipboard

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Quest Diagnostics tests workers’ urine sample for employers, as well as performing patient blood, urine, and other diagnostic tests for healthcare providers. Quest has compiled aggregate results of its drug testing data since 1988 and publishes its Drug Testing Index annually, covering a range of illicit, legal, and prescription drugs.

In 2018, the company started analyzing its test results data by industry sector. It found a double-digit increase between 2015 and 2017 in the rates of positive results for five industry sectors:

  • Transportation and Warehousing (21.4%)
  • Other Services (Except Public Administration) (15.4%)
  • Finance and Insurance (13%)
  • Retail Trade (12.8%)
  • Wholesale Trade (11.8%)

While the finance and insurance sector showed a double-digit increase in positivity, the sector had the lowest overall rate of positive results in 2017: 2.6%.

The transportation and warehousing sector experienced the largest overall increase in positivity due to significant increases in positive results for both cocaine and marijuana. Positive results for cocaine increased more than 22 percent in the sector between 2015 and 2017. Over the three years, the percentages of positive results were:

  • 0.22% in 2015,
  • 0.25% in 2016, and
  • 0.27% in 2017.

Jumps in Marijuana Results

Marijuana positivity increased by more than 33% over the same period. Marijuana was the most detected substance in all test. In fact, six sectors experienced year-over-year increases with at least 20% increases in marijuana positivity rates between 2015 and 2017:

  • Transportation and Warehousing (33.3%);
  • Other Services (except Public Administration) (33.3%);
  • Construction (26.7%);
  • Wholesale Trade (23.5%);
  • Manufacturing (23.1%); and
  • Accommodation and Food Services (20.7%)

Increases in positivity were nearly as high in two other sectors:

  • Administrative Support, Waste Management and Remediation Services (19.0%); and
  • Retail Trade (18.5%)

The rate of positive results for amphetamine grew nearly 16 percent between 2015 and 2017 in the Health Care and Social Assistance sector. Amphetamine, a class of central nervous system stimulants, includes Adderall (levoamphetamine and dextroamphetamine), which may be prescribed for certain conditions but may also be used illicitly.

In each of the three years analyzed, the highest rate of positive results for methamphetamine was in the construction sector with a 15 percent increase during that period. While methamphetamine is occasionally prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and obesity, it is most often associated with illicit use and production in clandestine laboratories.

In the manufacturing sector, positive test results for marijuana increased by more than 23 percent and by 27 percent for methamphetamine between 2015 and 2017.

General Employment Results Only

The data reported in Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index are only for the general workforce and do not include workers in federally-mandated safety-sensitive positions. The reported industry sectors were based on classifications of the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). The Drug Testing Index only included results for 16 of the 20 NAICS. The four sectors excluded due to insufficient testing volume were:

  • Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing and Hunting;
  • Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation;
  • Management of Companies and Enterprises; and
  • Mining, Quarrying, and Oil and Gas Extraction.

While the shifting data points from this report do suggest some possible areas of concern for security professionals, there’s likely no reason to immediately conduct drug screening for workers at your organization. However, with this new data available, it would be a great time to schedule a sit down with your security staff and HR representatives to ensure your drug use policy is current, and discuss any changes that you may wish to make.