Hydrocodone and Oxycodone Lead Work Force Positive Drug Tests

Oct. 12, 2011
Hydrocodone and oxycodone remain the most detected prescription opiates the general U.S. work force, and random drug tests for the two drugs find nearly double the positives for employees than are found in pre-employment screenings.

American workers continue to use prescription opiates at relatively high levels, according to Drug Testing Index (DTI) data released by Quest Diagnostics Inc., which provides diagnostic testing, information and services. Hydrocodone and oxycodone remain the most detected prescription opiates in the U.S. work force, with 1.3 percent and 1.1 percent positivity rates, respectively, in the first half of 2011. Compared to 2005 levels, positive tests for oxycodone are 96 percent higher and for hydrocodone are 47 percent higher.

"The use and misuse of prescription opiates continue to capture national attention," said Dr. Barry Sample, Quest Diagnostics director of Science and Technology for Employer Solutions. "The findings of this study reinforce the need for businesses to develop and communicate clear policies around both the medical and non-medical use of these drugs, especially for their safety-sensitive workers. Empowering employees to perform duties safely, act appropriately when they perceive risk, and understand clearly the consequences of non-medical use of these drugs and of being found to have violated their employer’s drug policy all play an important role in worker and public safety."

According to Drug Testing Index data from urine drug tests, only marijuana, at 2 percent in the first half of 2011, holds a positivity rate higher than hydrocodone and oxycodone. This ranking is consistent with 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health self-reported survey findings recently released by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, showing marijuana as the top drug associated with initiation of illicit drug use and pain relievers as second in ranking.

Random drug testing and post-accident testing detected dramatically more positives for prescription opiates than pre-employment drug testing from January 2011 through June 2011 in the U.S. work force. Post-accident testing for hydrocodone and oxycodone continue to reveal dramatically higher rates of positivity at 3.7 percent and 1.8 percent, respectively.

"Prescription opiates are effective for managing pain and have been shown to improve patients' quality of life," said Jon R. Cohen, M.D., Quest Diagnostics senior vice president and chief medical officer. "However, when used outside of a prescription and without the guidance of a physician, these powerful and highly addictive drugs can present serious health dangers to those who misuse them, and serious risks to workplace and public safety."

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