Workplace Drug Use Decreased After September 11

While some experts predicted that drug use in the workplace might increase following the events of September 11, that isn't the case, according to one of the leading providers of drug testing services in the United States.

Workplace drug use actually decreased after the events of September 11, according to the semi-annual Drug Testing Index released by Quest Diagnostics Inc.

The drug positivity rate, which is the number of positive test results compared to the total number of drug tests performed by Quest Diagnostics for this category, dropped to 4.4 percent between September and December 2001, compared to 4.7 percent during the same time a year earlier. For the full year, the drug positivity rate for this category declined to 4.6 percent from 4.7 percent in 2000. The post-September 11th reduction drove the decline in positivity for the full year, despite an upturn in on-the-job drug usage documented by the Drug Testing Index among general U.S. workforce employees in the first half of the year.

The Drug Testing Index examines drug positivity rates among three major testing populations: federally mandated, safety-sensitive workers; the general U.S. workforce; and the combined U.S. workforce. Federally mandated, safety-sensitive workers include pilots, bus and truck drivers and workers in nuclear power plants, for whom routine drug testing is mandated by the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The positivity rate among the general U.S. workforce declined to 4.8 percent between September and December 2001, from 5 percent during the same period a year earlier. For the full year, drug positivity for this category remained at 4.9 percent, the same rate seen in 2000. Among general U.S. workforce employees, the majority of drug testing that Quest Diagnostics performs occurs prior to employment, as opposed to while employees are on the job.

"While the drug positivity rate for the combined U.S. workforce declined in 2001, it is too soon to say whether a downward trend toward lower drug use will continue," says Barry Sample, Ph.D., director of Science and Technology for Quest Diagnostics' Corporate Health and Wellness division. "The results for 2001 may be an aberration given the events of September 11th."

The positivity rate for federally mandated, safety-sensitive workers continued to decrease to 2.7 percent, an all-time low, between September and December 2001, from 3 percent between September and December 2000. For the full year, drug positivity for this category declined to 2.9 percent from 3.1 percent in 2000.

The Drug Testing Index is based on approximately 6.3 million tests performed during 2001 by Quest Diagnostics.

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