In an industry with high injury and accident rates, many raise their eyebrows at new statistics that reveal rising use of cocaine and marijuana. Moreover, drug tests uncover illicit substance abuse after work-related accidents. Opiates and oxycodone also show up in drug screenings.
Positive drug screening results held steady for several years—from 2017 to 2020. However, positive results in 2021 jumped 12%, according to Quest Diagnostics's Drug Testing Index.
The rate reached its highest since 2001 at more than 30% greater than the all-time low during 2010-2012. With its workers in high-danger situations, construction sees more deadly accidents than other professions. Still, Quest Diagnostics says that it has seen a related uptick in cases of post-accident positivity for cocaine, marijuana, opiates, and oxycodone.
Quest Diagnostics based its study on 11 million tests conducted between January and December of 2021, including urine, hair, and oral fluid.
In context, the overall positivity rate for the US workforce increased to 4.6% in all tests, which is 31.4% higher than the low of 3.5% ten years ago. But in post-accident testing, positive results increased between 63% and 266.7%, higher than pre-employment rates.
"Employers are wrestling with significant recruitment and retention challenges and maintaining safe and engaging work environments that foster positive mental and physical wellbeing," said Keith Ward, general manager and vice president, Quest Diagnostics Employer Solutions. "Our Drug Testing Index data raises important questions about what it means to be an employer committed to employee health and safety. Eager to attract talent, employers might feel tempted to lower their standards. But, unfortunately, in the process, they raise the specter of more drug-related impairment and worksite accidents that put other employees and the general public in harm's way."
Increased post-accident drug use found in Quest Diagnostics's study marks an indication in the construction industry that companies can do more for the well-being of their employees.