Illicit drug use in the US is at the highest rate in a decade

Quest Diagnostics released its annual Drug Testing IndexTM in May.(1,2)  It revealed that the American workforce had the highest positivity rate for illicit drugs in the past 12 years. Cocaine continued its upward trend for the fourth consecutive year. Marijuana positivity increased dramatically with notable increases in Colorado and Washington, both states that have legalized marijuana. Amphetamines (which includes amphetamine and methamphetamine) positivity continued its year-over-year upward trend, increasing more than eight percent, with heroin positivity increasing an astounding 147% over the last five years.

These drugs (marijuana, amphetamine and heroin) are included in ExamOne’s full drug screen on the insurance panel and can help identify those applicants at risk for drug abuse. ExamOne’s marijuana positivity rate has increased from 3% to over 5% in the last 3 years.

Additionally, prescription opiate positivity rates—including hydrocodone, hydromorphone, oxycodone and oxymorphone—continue to fuel the opioid crisis. The ExamOne expanded opioid panel tests for these prescription opiates.

Deaths as a result of a drug overdose from both drug abuse and analgesic/opioid abuse have been on the rise from 2000-2014(3). The death rate increase since 2000 is 137% for drug abuse overdoses and 200% for opioid drug overdoses. This increase in overdose deaths was apparent in both genders as well as across multiple age groups.

Urine laboratory testing continues to be the gold standard to detect drug testing in the general and insurance population. Utilizing a historical prescription history (ScriptCheck) can also be instrumental in detecting insurance applicants on chronic opioid medications.

If you have any more questions regarding drugs of abuse, please contact your Strategic Account Executive.


(1) Weber, L. More American Workers Are Testing Positive for drugs. The Wall Street Journal. May 16, 2017. Accessed June 1, 2017.

(2) Increases in Illicit Drugs, Including Cocaine, Drive Workforce Drug Positivity to Highest Rate in 12. Quest Diagnostics website.
Published May 16, 2017. Accessed June 1, 2017.

(3)Rudd,RA; et al. Increases in Drug and Opioid Overdose Deaths—United States, 2000-2014; CDC:MMWR January 1, 2016/64(50);1378–1382

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