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Drug use in workplace at highest point in 12 years: Study

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Cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine use continues to climb among workers in the United States, though opioid use is down, according to a study released Tuesday by Madison, New Jersey-based Quest Diagnostics Inc. 

Overall, positive urine drug testing among the combined U.S. workforce in 2016 was 4.2% — an increase over the 2014 rate of 4%, according to the latest Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index. This represents the highest annual positivity rate since 2004, when positive tests were at 4.5%, the study shows.

The results were also broken down by drug type. 

Positive tests for marijuana use continued to climb in both the federally mandated, safety-sensitive and general U.S. workforces, according to the study. In saliva testing, marijuana positivity increased nearly 75%, to 8.9% of the general U.S. workforce in 2016 from 5.1% in 2013. Marijuana positivity also increased in both urine testing — 2.5% in 2016 vs. 2.4% in 2015 — and hair testing —7.3% in 2016 vs. 7% in 2015 — in the same population.

For cocaine use, positivity increased 12% in 2016, reaching a seven-year high of 0.28% of the general U.S. workforce, compared with 0.25 % in 2015, according to the study. 

Amphetamine use continued its year-over-year upward trend, increasing more than 8% in the general U.S. workforce in urine testing.

Meanwhile, opioid use is on the decline — another continuing trend, the report shows. 

Positive tests for prescription opiates declined in urine testing among the general U.S. workforce last year. Oxycodones, which are among the most popular opioid types, showed consecutive years of declines, dropping 28% from 0.96% in 2012 to 0.69% in 2016.