Worker Drug Use Continues to Decrease

May 12, 2009 ( - Overall recent drug use in the combined U.S. workforce has sustained a 19-year decline since Quest Diagnostics first published its Drug Testing Index (DTI), from 1989 when 13.6% of workers tested positive for drug use, to 2008 when 3.6% of the combined U.S. workforce tested positive.

According to a press release, the DTI data indicates random drug testing programs appear to deter drug use. In the federally mandated safety-sensitive workforce, where employees expect random drug testing, the drug positivity rate is lower (1.4%) than the rate of positivity among job applicants in that same workforce (1.7%). However, in the general workforce, where employees are far less likely to expect random drug testing, the drug use positivity rate is dramatically higher (5.3%) than that of job applicants (3.6%).

Positivity rates of recent use of cocaine in the general U.S. workforce dropped 29% (0.58% of tests in 2007 to 0.41% of tests in 2008) continuing a steep decline, the press release said. Methamphetamine positivity in the general U.S. workforce also dropped 21% (from 0.14% of tests in 2007 to 0.11% in 2008).

However, the positivity rate for amphetamine increased more than 12% (0.40% to 0.45%).

“While many substances are showing declines in use, a significant trend upward that will be important to watch is the rise in amphetamine positives. This coincides with survey and emergency room data, and could be tied to the significant increase in drugs prescribed for Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Similar trends are seen with the increased use and abuse of pain medications,” said Robert Willette, Ph.D., President of Duo Research and former Chief of the Research Technology Branch of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in the press release.