Post-accident workplace drug positivity rates remained at 25-year-high levels in 2022 as more states moved to legalize cannabis, according to diagnostic testing firm Quest Diagnostics.
Analysis of urine test data showed that on-the-job drug testing following a workplace accident was at 7.3 percent, up from 6.7 percent in 2021. Analysis for the Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index (DTI) report was generated from 10.6 million deidentified urine, hair and oral-fluid drug test results reported between January and December 2022, according to Quest.
Safety organizations such as the National Safety Council have long advocated for zero-tolerance policies regarding workplace drug use as more states more to legalize cannabis.
"Intoxicating cannabis products, including marijuana, can have a major impact on safety at work and have been proven to slow reaction time, impact memory and impair skills essential to driving. State legalization of the drug creates new challenges for employers," said Katie Mueller, a senior program manager at the National Safety Council focusing on cannabis safety. "The Quest data provide compelling evidence that increased use of cannabis products by employees can contribute to greater risk for injuries in the workplace. It is imperative employers take the proper steps to create and maintain a policy that addresses cannabis use, build a safety-focused culture and educate the workforce to keep all workers safe on and off the job."
The Quest report, which is released on an annual basis, provided data analysis of the combined U.S. workforce participating in company-policy testing from private employers and "the federally mandated, safety-sensitive workforce, which includes federal employees and the transportation and nuclear power industries, and can include workers such as pilots, truck drivers, train conductors and others required to drug test under federal legislation."
Despite a return-to-office influx experienced post-pandemic, workforce drug use positivity continued to increase in 2022.
Keith Ward, Quest Diagnostics general manager and vice president for Employer Solutions, stated, "This historic rise seems to correspond with sharp increases in positivity for marijuana in both pre-employment and post-accident drug tests, suggesting that changing societal attitudes about marijuana may be impacting workplace behaviors and putting colleagues at risk. The increase in amphetamines positivity is also notable, given the addictive potential and health risks associated with this class of drugs."
A correlation exists between post-accident marijuana positivity and cannabis legalization in certain states across the U.S., according to Quest Diagnostics. Marijuana for recreational use is legal in 22 states, with 38 states allowing medicinal use.
However, Quest indicated that cannabis consumption wasn't the only factor that contributed to the rise in workforce testing rates. Combined positivity for all drugs remained at 4.6 percent in 2022. Rates in 2021 and 2022 were up more than 30 percent from an all-time low between 2010 and 2012, according to the firm.
"Positivity for marijuana in the general U.S. workforce increased 10.3 percent and amphetamines positivity increased 15.4 percent," Quest indicated. "While the company's amphetamines data does not differentiate between prescribed medications and illicit drug use, the increase correlates with other data suggesting that the use of amphetamines, prescribed or illicit, has grown in recent years in the U.S."