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A new study has revealed that more US employees at work are testing positive for drugs.

Positive tests for prescription opiates declined; however, there was a dramatic increase in other drugs found in the blood and urine of subjects. The results of more than ten million laboratory tests showed an overall rate of 4.2% of employees testing positive, which is the highest rate since 3.6% was recorded in 2008. The top rate ever recorded was 13.6% in 1988, the first year of the study conducted by research and diagnostic testing firm Quest Diagnostics. The lowest rate ever recorded by the study was 3.5% in 2012.

The study suggests that more people are using cocaine in some areas of the USA, with rates of use rising significantly for the fifth year. Double-digit year-on-year increases in at least four of the five past years were seen in the states of Nebraska (91% increase between 2016 and 2017), Idaho (88% increase) and Washington (31% increase). There were also large increases of methamphetamine use across the country.

“It’s unfortunate that we mark 30 years of the Drug-Free Workplace Act with clear evidence that drugs continue to invade the country’s workplaces”, said a Quest Diagnostics researcher. “These changing patterns and geographical variations may challenge the ability of employers to anticipate the ‘drug of choice’ for their workforce or where to best focus their drug prevention efforts to ensure a safe and healthy work environment.”

US states that have legalised marijuana for recreational use have not surprisingly seen increases in positive rates of up to 43%. Of more concern is that some states (including Nevada, Massachusetts and California) have seen significant increases in positive tests for marijuana in safety-critical personnel, including pilots, drivers and workers in nuclear power plants.

In the UK, workplace drug testing helps ensure that businesses are operating lawfully to guarantee the safety of employees and the general public under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (among others). In addition, implementing a workplace drug testing policy can help deter the use of drugs within the workplace, safeguarding both businesses and employees. It can also increase productivity and decrease costs.

“Not only does a drug and alcohol testing policy give employees clear guidance on what they can and can’t do, it details which disciplinary procedures apply”, says Claire Leech, AlphaBiolabs’ Workplace Testing Sales Executive. “Importantly, it also provides Managers with clear guidance on which procedures they should follow.”

For information on any of AlphaBiolabs’ drug testing services, or our bespoke Workplace Drug Testing solutions, please call us on 0333 600 1300; email:;