How has the Pandemic Affected Drug Positivity Rates?

Posted: June 24, 2021

The Covid 19 pandemic has altered the employment sector in many ways, including spurring new trends in drug test positivity rates, particularly marijuana. Drug tests are conducted on behalf of companies for new-hire candidates, along with for existing employees as part of random-testing programs. They may also be given to current employees following an on-the-job accident, or if there is suspicion of drug use. According to Quest Diagnostic’s recently released “Drug Testing Index,” there are several drug test positivity trends that have emerged in the American workforce during the Covid 19 pandemic. Here are a few of the report’s key findings:
  • Overall, the percentage of working Americans testing positive for any drug was 4.4%, which was slightly lower than it was in 2019, when the rate of positive urine-based drug tests hit its highest level in 16 years.
  • The number of positive marijuana tests climbed among American workers as more states have legalized medical and recreational use in recent years. The Covid 19 pandemic also seems to have boasted positive marijuana rates as people likely turned to it for stress and anxiety relief. Approximately 2.7% of the approximately seven million drug tests that Quest conducts for employers came back positive for marijuana, which is an increase from 2.5% in 2019 and 2% in 2016.
  • In contrast, marijuana use decreased slightly among the federally mandated workforce.
  • The finance and Insurance industry, along with transportation and warehousing industry, saw the biggest year-over-year increases in marijuana positivity rates.
  • The percentage of U.S. workers testing positive for other drugs declined a bit in 2020.
  • As for the industries with the overall drug highest positivity rates, there was a tie between retail trade and accommodations and Food services.
  • The highest Cocaine positivity rate (.32%) was found in the construction industry, which is 10 times higher than the Educational Services industry’s positive rate. Construction also had the highest positivity rate for methamphetamine (.21%).
  • Urine drug test positivity for Cocaine decreased 18.5% between 2019 and 2020 and decreased 20% over five years.
Marijuana Use is on the Rise One big takeaway from Quest’s report is the big spike in marijuana positivity rates. As a result, companies must adapt to the rapidly changing laws around marijuana use in the workplace and employment testing, along with the fast-changing cultural attitudes about marijuana use.  Here are a few repercussions of this:
  • As more states legalize marijuana, legal issues surrounding this will arise and legislation will continue to expand so it is essential for companies conducting drug testing to thoroughly understand local and national laws.
  • Many companies are having taking a more flexible stance toward marijuana use than toward other drugs, including changing the degree to which marijuana is included in testing panels.
  • Some candidates will flat out reject a job opportunity if a prospective employer requires a drug test. To avoid this, employers in industries that are facing hiring crunches, including hospitality, are dropping marijuana testing to make it easier to recruit workers.
  • If a company does not have a drug and alcohol policy in place, it may be time to develop one. However, companies in safety-sensitive industries, including transportation have less flexibility to change their marijuana test policies because on-the-job testing is often mandated by law.
  • Companies should educate current employees about possible repercussions of recreational marijuana use. Drug free workplace policies, trainings, and informational posters can help deter marijuana use.
Info Cubic utilizes a network of over 20,000 collection sites nationwide, and provides a mobile-friendly paperless ordering process, so the testing process is convenient for you and your applicants. If you have any questions about drug testing in the workplace, feel free to reach out to Info Cubic at (877) 360-4636. We are here to help with all your company’s drug testing needs.