Drug Use in American Workforce Up Across the Board

The number of U.S. workers testing positive for drugs is at its highest level in more than 10 years. Quest Diagnostics Inc., one of the country’s largest laboratories, released data that 4% of the nearly 11 million employment drug tests they processed came back positive. The positives were up in both the general workforce and in DOT-regulated positions like truck drivers and pilots. The drugs found in the workers’ systems range from marijuana to methamphetamines.

A Gallup poll follows a similar trajectory. It found that 13% of American adults say they currently smoke marijuana. That is almost double the 7% that admitted to regular use just three years ago. The Quest study found a 47% increase in marijuana positivity.

While the jump in marijuana use probably doesn’t surprise anyone considering the political climate these days, you might be shocked to hear that tests positive for heroin jumped 146%. There are two things you should know about this number. First, even with that kind of jump, heroin accounts for less than one-tenth of one-percent of the positive drug tests. Experts say the increase in heroin use can be directly tied to the crackdown on prescription drug abuse.

What do all of these numbers and statistics mean in the real world? They mean employers are actually struggling to find workers who can pass a drug test! This costs employers is several ways:

  • It can take weeks to find someone who is qualified for the job and can pass the test.
  • Companies find themselves chronically understaffed, which often means having to turn down work.
  • The hiring process takes time and resources, which are all lost when a candidate fails the test after getting a job offer.
  • Each failed test can cost the company on average $30-$40. Some tests cost even more.

Wayne Moss, president of Innovative Moving Systems in New Mexico told the Albuquerque Journal that for every 10 tests he schedules, four candidates fail and another four never show up to take the test. Another employer in the area said he requires the applicant to pay for the drug test and reimburses them as soon as they pass.

While that isn’t exactly a plan that works for most employers, it does reinforce why drug testing is such an important part of the pre-employment process. The drug-using public is getting wise to the testing; cheating has increased, as well as the headaches for HR departments. But if you are thinking drug testing isn’t worth the trouble, just imagine what kind of applicants will walk through your door once you become known as the one company that doesn’t test. That’s a risk you don’t want to take.

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Jennifer Gladstone

Posted By: Jennifer Gladstone

Jennifer Gladstone is a news anchor and journalist with more than 20 years of experience in front of the camera. She's worked in several markets, large and small, and has performed nearly every task needed in a newsroom. As EBI’s Screening News Editor, she keeps EBI’s customers and blog subscribers up to date on the latest screening news and legislative alerts affecting companies of all sizes.

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