Drug use in the workplace is increasing. According to a new report, 4.7 percent of drug tests administered by U.S. employers found traces of drugs. In 2013, that number was 4.3 percent, showing an increase that researchers hadn’t seen in over 10 years. Prior to this, there had been a decline year over year from 13.6 at its peak in 1988 to 3.5 in 2013.
Marijuana accounted for almost half of the positive results. It shows increases each year over other drugs. Results gathered from Colorado and Washington were higher than other states because they have legalized marijuana for recreational use. There is speculation that the increase in acceptance of the drug for both medicinal and recreational use may be the reason more results are coming back positive. It’s an area researchers want to explore further in order to find the correlation between their findings and public opinion. They believe it will provide insight into a new aspect of the legal and health issues associated with marijuana use.
Cocaine was detected more frequently this year than in the past. It had a period of decline but appears to be on the rise again. It was found in 0.22 percent of the tests in 2013. This year it rose to 0.24 percent. A report released by the U.S. government last year showed that 1.5 million people had used cocaine last year.
Other substances found in the tests were prescription drugs such as Xanax and other benzodiazepines, the painkiller oxycodone, and amphetamines. Researchers noted that the rate of positive tests for pills was at an all-time high. The 2014 study by the U.S. government reported that 4.5 million people had taken prescription pills illegally.
Most of the results of the 6.6 million tests were urine samples, but oral and hair drug tests were also used. They can detect drugs for a longer period of time than a standard urine test, returning positive results based on usage as far back as 90 days. These tests are more effective in detecting cocaine, opiates, and methamphetamine than urine tests since these drugs are usually out of the system within a week.
If employees were able to provide a doctor’s prescription for the drug, the results were dismissed, but most of the results were due to illegal use.
The results raised concerns for researchers, noting that if employees are on illegal drugs while at work, it can cause serious risks. Drugs impair cognitive and physical abilities, causing productivity to go down and safety issues to arise. Employees who begin to abuse the drugs will develop health issues.
The report was published by Quest Diagnostics, a firm that provides drug-testing results as a public service for federal and private employers as well as the general public.
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