Home 2021 Workplace Drug Testing Trends Released for Marijuana and Other Substances

2021 Workplace Drug Testing Trends Released for Marijuana and Other Substances

(June 2020) Each year Quest Diagnostics, the world’s leading provider of diagnostic information, releases their Drug Testing Index™.  This report examines drug test results from both the general workforce and federally mandated, safety-sensitive workforce (e.g., commercial drivers and airline pilots regulated by the U.S. Department of Transportation) to identify drug use trends.

The 2021 report, released in late May, analyzed over nine million tests and is reported by Quest to be the first large-scale analysis of workforce drug tests collected during the COVID-19 pandemic. One key finding from the report is that despite the decrease in positivity rates for many substances, the double-digit increase in marijuana positivity rates kept the overall positivity rates historically high levels.

“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.

Other data of interest from the report:

  • The rates of positive urine tests in the general U.S. workforce declined in eight drug categories including cocaine (down 18.5%), heroin (down 10%), opiates (down 16%) and benzodiazepines (down 9.3%).
  • Marijuana positivity rates increased in all three types of testing collection methods — urine, oral fluids (which detects recent use) and hair (which detects long-term patterns of use).
  • Post-accident positivity rates for hydrocodone/hydromorphone (e.g., Vicodin®), oxycodone (e.g., Oxycontin®) and marijuana are higher than pre-employment test rates for the same substances (400%, 250% and 73%, respectively.
  • States that have legalized recreational marijuana saw a 118.2% increase in tests positive for marijuana from 2012 – 2020. While states with only medical marijuana legislation saw a 68.4% increase in marijuana positives and states without no marijuana legislation saw a 57.9% increase in marijuana positives over the same timeframe.
  • All but three industries experienced an increase in marijuana positivity since 2019, with accommodation and food services seeing the largest increase. From 2016 – 2020.
  • From 2016 – 2020, 6 out of 17 industry sectors, including retail, accommodation and food services, and manufacturing, saw a year-over-year increase in positive drug tests.

Because of the timeframe in which the data was collected, it is reasonable to wonder what impact COVID-19 had on the data.  Interestingly, this report analyzed more test results than their 2020 report (based on over 8 million tests).  Regardless of what is going on in the world, Dr. Sample said in the report, “… it is important that employers consider workforce drug testing as a way to keep the workplace, their customers and the community safe.”

To read more about Quest Diagnostics’ report, visit their website.