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Positive drug tests in US workforce highest in two decades

Posted On: Mar. 30, 2022 12:03 PM CST

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The rate of positive drug test results in the U.S. workforce in 2021 reached its highest level since 2001, according to analysis published Wednesday by Quest Diagnostics.

Based on nearly 9 million urine drug tests collected between January and December 2021, the study found the overall positivity rate in the combined U.S. workforce was up 4.6% in 2021 compared with 4.4% in 2020, and up 31.4% from the all-time low of 3.5% just 10 years ago.

The overall positivity rate in the federally mandated, safety-sensitive workforce, based on nearly 2.7 million urine drug tests, stayed even year-over-year at 2.2%. In the general U.S. workforce, positivity increased 1.8% (5.5% in 2020 versus 5.6% in 2021) and was 12% higher than in 2017 (5.0% in 2017 versus 5.6% in 2021) and up each of the last five years, according to Quest Diagnostics.

Barry Sample, senior science consultant for Quest, said in a statement the study results highlighted trends such as increased drug positivity rates in the safety-sensitive workforce, including those performing public safety and national security jobs, as well as higher rates of positivity in individuals tested after on-the-job accidents.