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The COVID-19 pandemic has not dampened the positivity of marijuana drug tests, which continued to increase last year across the U.S. workforce as a whole, new analysis finds published May 26 by Quest Diagnostics. The company said it was the first large-scale analysis of anonymized drug test results performed by lab workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The overall positivity rate of the combined US workforce based on more than seven million urine drug tests collected between January and December 2020 declined only slightly in 2020 (4.4 %) compared to 2019 (4.5%, a peak in sixteen years).

The positivity of the federally mandated, safety-sensitive workforce based on more than 2 million urine drug tests decreased by 8.3% (2.4% in 2019 versus 2.2% in 2020), but was still 10% higher than the 2016 rate (5 years ago).

Across the US workforce, positivity increased 3.8% (5.3% in 2019 vs. 5.5% in 2020) and 12.2% more than in 2016.

As positivity for most classes of drugs other than marijuana has declined or remained stable in the combined U.S. workforce over the past five years, amphetamines (which include methamphetamine) have persisted at 1 , 1% positive each year.

“Driven in large part by increasing rates of positive for marijuana in general in the United States and consistent rates of positive for amphetamines, the rate of drug positivity has remained stubbornly high despite the seismic changes at the site. work caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, “said Barry Sample, Ph.D., senior director of science and technology, Quest Diagnostics, in a statement.” However, as we see an increase in hiring and As many employees return to the workplace, it is important that employers view drug testing as a way to protect the workplace, their customers and the community. “

Positivity decreasing or stable for most drug categories, but increasing for ecstasy

Urine drug test results in the overall U.S. workforce declined in eight drug categories, but remained the same in two drug categories (with the exception of propoxyphene, which was withdrawn from the US market a decade ago). The positivity for cocaine fell by 18.5% (0.27% in 2019 against 0.22% in 2020), semi-synthetic opiates (hydrocodone / hydromorphone) fell by 10.8% (0.37% in 2019 against 0.33% in 2020), opiates in the oxycodone group (oxycodone / oxymorphone) fell by 14.7% (0.34% in 2019 against 0.29% in 2020) and benzodiazepines fell by 9 , 3% (0.43% in 2019 against 0.39% in 2020).

While the positivity for MDMA / MDA 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (commonly referred to as ecstasy) increased by 25% (0.008% in 2019 vs. 0.010% in 2020) and showed small increases year over year, the positivity rate remains very low at 1 in 10,000 (0.010%) tests.

Positivity rates declined in mandatory and safety-sensitive labor testing categories

Urine drug test scores for the federally mandated safety-sensitive workforce declined across all drug categories other than phencyclidine (PCP), which remained at 0.011% , as in 2019. It should be noted that the positivity for marijuana decreased by 10.2% (0.88% in 2019). against 0.79% in 2020), cocaine fell by 20% (0.25% in 2019 against 0.20% in 2020), semi-synthetic opiates (hydrocodone / hydromorphone) fell by 14.3% ( 0.35% in 2019 against 0.30% in 2020) and the oxycodone group of opiates (oxycodone / oxymorphone) decreased by 19.2% (0.26% in 2019 against 0.21% in 2020).

Marijuana continued to increase year-over-year double-digit growth in the overall U.S. workforce, with lower positivity rates in states with only medical or marijuana use. no form of legalized marijuana use compared to states with legalized recreational laws

Marijuana positivity increased in 2020 in the general U.S. workforce and in all types of samples (urine, saliva, and hair). In the United States, marijuana positivity increased by 16.1% in urine tests (3.1% in 2019 compared to 3.6% in 2020), by 35.2% in saliva tests ( 9.1% in 2019 against 12.3% in 2020) and 22.5% in hair tests (7.1% in 2019 against 8.7% in 2020).

Data from the Drug Testing Index also showed marked differences between states that have legalized recreational marijuana use and states that have legalized only medical marijuana use or any form of legal use of marijuana. marijuana. Marijuana positivity increased in states with legal recreational use laws by 118.2% from 2012 to 2020 (2.2% in 2012 from 4.8% in 2020). In states with only medical marijuana laws, marijuana positivity increased by 68.4% (1.9% in 2012 from 3.2% in 2020). In states without laws on medical or recreational marijuana, positives for marijuana increased by 57.9% (1.9% in 2012 compared to 3.0% in 2020).

“Our data suggests that marijuana positivity has risen sharply nationally since states began legalizing marijuana in 2012. However, it appears that states where medical marijuana use alone is legal , do not experience much higher rates of increase than states where neither medical nor recreational use is legal, ”said Dr. Sample.

The positivity rate of post-accident test results increased faster than the positivity rate of pre-employment tests

Between 2012, when the first state legalized recreational marijuana, and 2020, the gap between pre-employment and post-crash marijuana positivity grew every year. In the general U.S. workforce, in 2012, pre-employment positivity for marijuana was 1.9% and post-crash positivity was 2.4% (a difference of 26, 3%). In 2020, pre-employment marijuana positivity was 3.7% and post-crash 6.4% (a difference of 73%).

“Drug Testing Index data shows states with recreational marijuana laws have significantly higher positivity and year-over-year differences between recreational states and states. with medical laws and without legalization have increased. is under the influence or impaired at the time of the test, our post-accident data suggest that marijuana use may play a role in workplace incidents leading to drug testing, ”said the Dr Sample.

Cocaine positivity at its lowest since 2012

The positivity of urine drug tests for cocaine in the overall U.S. workforce has fallen to its lowest level since 2012. Cocaine positivity has declined by 18.5% ( 0.27% in 2019 against 0.22% in 2020). The positivity for cocaine over the past five years has decreased by 21.4% (0.28% in 2016 compared to 0.22% in 2020).

Workforce positivity has increased dramatically in several sectors

The Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index Industry Insights on the general positivity rates of the US workforce, based on more than 17 million urine drug test results between 2016 and 2020, shows a year-over-year increase in overall workplace drug positivity in 6 of 17 reported industries. The retail industry had the highest overall positivity rates for all drug categories over the five years of analysis (5.1% in 2016, 5.2% in 2017, 5.4% in 2018, 5.5% in 2019 and 6.2% in 2020).

Accommodation and catering on par with the retail trade for the highest positivity in 2020 only (4.7% in 2016, 4.6% in 2017, 4.9% in 2018, 5.1% in 2019 and 6.2 % in 2020). The Accommodation and Food Services category had the highest workforce positivity for marijuana at 6.3%, a relative increase of 96.9% over five years (3.2% in 2016 vs. 6.3% % in 2020).

“Impairment, whether due to drugs, alcohol, fatigue or stress, decreases the safety of the workforce,” said Jenny Burke, senior practice director. impairment, National Safety Council. “The DTI results, reflecting declines in many drug categories, occurred in a single year. Even though they are on the decline, we must continue to educate people about the harmful effects of these substances. And, as states and the federal government contemplate changes to the legality of marijuana, we can’t take it for granted that they also understand the detrimental impact of THC. The safety of those who share roads and workplaces with impaired persons must be a priority. “

Note: For an interactive map with positivity rates and trendlines by three-digit US zip code, visit

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