Drug Testing Positivity Rates Continue to Skyrocket

April 28, 2021 by Verified First

Drug Testing Positivity Rates Continue to Skyrocket

The COVID-19 pandemic brought many unexpected challenges. Some were completely out of left field while others were more predictable. One result from the pandemic’s uncertainty has been the increase in drug testing positivity rates. Historically, national crises have a direct correlation to increased drug usage, and since the start of the pandemic, drug testing positivity rates have continued to skyrocket. 

Factors contributing to increased drug usage

Drug use has continued to rise with the legalization of marijuana and the continued challenges resulting from the opioid epidemic. Now, add a worldwide crisis into the mix and you have the perfect storm.

Navigating uncharted territory, people felt heightened worry (62%), sadness (51%), fear (51%), and loneliness (42%). Stressors like depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, domestic violence, child abuse, shutdowns, loss of income, work-related ergonomics, and divorce increased during this time as well all increasing the risk for unhealthy coping mechanisms

These factors not only foster an environment for relapse but also for increased or first-time drug use. In fact, according to the CDC, 13% of Americans started or increased substance use to manage emotions connected to COVID-19.

Increased drug use has the potential to create a substance use disorder, extending far beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. Something to watch out for in the workplace.

The research behind the rates 

Pandemic aside, positive workplace drug tests have risen to a 16-year high, according to SHRM. In fact, 2019 had the highest amount of workers test positive for drug use since 2003. While we begin to see the reality of drug use during COVID-19 come to fruition, we can see positive drug tests continue to rise. 

SHRM reported that:

  • Nearly 5% of the U.S. workforce had positive drug screens in 2019
  • Drug deaths rose by 5% in 2019
  • Retail and the foodservice sector had the highest positive workplace drug rates

Drug Use Statistics in 2020

Looking back at 2020, SHRM reported:

  • Drug deaths increased 13% in the first few months of 2020 alone
  • 49% of workers say they are coping with some level of addiction
  • 12% of people increased alcohol and substance abuse due to stress over the pandemic
  • 19% of workers report a minimum of weekly substance usage
  • 10% of workers report abusing a prescription medication
  • 36% of workers admit to substance abuse affecting their work since the pandemic began
  • 57% of workers say they’ve lost 10-plus hours per week due to substance abuse
  • Young people had the highest numbers when it came to substance abuse

With drug use on the rise, it is worth considering your work’s drug-free workplace policies and employee assistance programs. 

Drug testing and the workplace

Ignoring drug use and abuse can cost a company hefty amounts of money to the tune of $82 billion in productivity each year.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, employees who use substances are more likely to:

  • Change jobs frequently
  • Be late or absent from work
  • Be less productive
  • Be involved in a workplace accident and potentially harm others
  • File a workers’ compensation claim

On the other hand, employers who have implemented drug-free workplace programs or drug testing solutions report:

  • Improvements in morale and productivity
  • Decrease in absenteeism, accidents, downtime, turnover, and theft
  • Better health statuses among employees and family members
  • Reduced healthcare costs

Implementing drug screening programs into the workplace has many benefits, but it’s important to consider what would work best for your organization.

What actions you should consider taking

Having solid drug screening policies better ensures the safety of your team members, clients, and property. They work as a method to prevent and deter workers from using drugs while also mitigating other risks, like negligent-hiring lawsuits. 

As we start to see employees return to the office, now is the time to assess drug screening policies and/or implement drug screening programs. Consider implementing: 

  1. Pre-employment tests. Test all candidates as part of a condition of employment.
  2. For-cause and reasonable suspicion tests. Keep drug testing consistent. Establish consequences for positive test results and consider implementing return-to-duty testing and follow-up testing
  3. Random drug screening programs. Continuously monitor drug usage in your workforce by using a third-party provider to randomly select individuals for drug testing.

Need help revamping your drug screening program? Verified First offers three different drug screening solutions to meet your needs, including a random drug screening program option. 

NOTE: Ultimately, drug screening needs differ from organization to organization, so it’s important to determine what needs your organization has. 

About Verified First
Verified First is known for delivering streamlined background screening backed by the best client support, and for developing the easiest, fastest HR system integrations, for free. Our client support team is U.S.-based, answers calls in seconds, resulting in hundreds of positive testimonials and a 96% customer satisfaction. Verified First's patent-pending, award-winning integrations include over 100 applicant tracking systems, and provide clients a turn-key experience.

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