Perspective: Taking Aim at Unfair Billing

Perspective: Staying Vigilant on Drug Testing

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As state legal guidelines and societal attitudes shift relating to leisure and medical marijuana use nationwide, employers in some fields are re-evaluating office drug testing. On the identical time, nevertheless, this heightened consideration on marijuana use is spurring new analysis into its impacts on well being and security. The rising proof propels an argument that employers — significantly within the transportation sector — ought to keep vigilant.

The historical past of office drug testing for safety-sensitive professions isn’t significantly lengthy. Greater than 35 years in the past, Congress and regulatory our bodies, together with the U.S. Division of Transportation, reacted swiftly after it was discovered that the crew on an Amtrak prepare that was concerned in a deadly crash — one which killed 16 and injured 174 — had examined constructive for marijuana. Within the aftermath, federal obligatory drug screenings for workers in safety-sensitive industries have been licensed, together with trucking and others regulated by DOT. A couple of 12 months later, President Ronald Reagan signed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988.

Over time since, Quest Diagnostics has been reporting on drug use tendencies by way of its Drug Testing Index, and has produced a collection of stories offering perception into workforce drug use based mostly on positivity charges of de-identified laboratory exams for a variety of medication.

Whereas there happily hasn’t been one other lethal incident on the dimensions of the Amtrak crash, there are warning indicators that drug misuse is as harmful as ever. In 2021, general outcomes of the DTI illustrated that the speed of constructive drug exams amongst America’s workforce has reached its highest since 2001, up greater than 30% from an all-time low in 2010.

Particularly, the report revealed a number of notable tendencies, like larger charges of positivity in people examined after on-the-job accidents. In each the final U.S. information and federally mandated workforces, the rise in positivity charges on post-accident exams for marijuana has outpaced these in pre-employment exams.

Marijuana positivity charges have additionally reached a 20-year excessive. Within the basic U.S. workforce, urine exams for marijuana noticed an 8.3% enhance, the best positivity charge ever reported within the DTI.

As a part of its reporting course of, Quest analyzes positivity charges throughout industries resembling retail, development, transportation and warehousing. Whereas some states have begun the method of legalizing marijuana for medical use, leisure use or each, sure private-sector staff — resembling these safety-sensitive staff mandated by the DOT — are nonetheless required to be examined for it underneath federal legal guidelines, and staff could threat shedding their jobs in the event that they use marijuana throughout working hours or earlier than work.

For the reason that DOT first carried out testing mandates within the Eighties, estimates present drug positivity amongst transportation staff dropped 50%.

That mentioned, of the industries examined within the 2021 DTI, transportation and warehousing noticed a few of the largest will increase in marijuana-positive specimens. Particularly, the transportation and warehousing trade noticed a steep climb of constructive drug screening outcomes among the many basic workforce, rising over 57% since 2017 — largely led by marijuana.

As of June 1, 2022, preliminary numbers don’t seem like a lot better, with virtually 130,000 truck drivers (a inhabitants that largely makes up the federally mandated, safety-sensitive transportation positives) within the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse, a database monitoring CDL driver drug and alcohol program violations. Almost 97,000 nonetheless maintain prohibited standing, with a majority (72,000) but to begin the return to responsibility course of.

Societal attitudes towards marijuana are shifting. However we can not overstate the significance of workforce testing for guaranteeing security for sure industries — particularly transportation.

For the reason that Amtrak crash, lethal automobile accidents for most people involving marijuana have additionally elevated, almost doubling over the course of 20 years. Current research present marijuana legalization has impacted this, as nicely — throughout states, legalization of the leisure use of marijuana was related to a 6.5% enhance in car harm crash charges and a 2.3% enhance in deadly crash charges.

Employer insurance policies on workforce drug use and screening influence everybody. As constructive check outcomes proceed to climb, employers can not afford to be careless. Although some have begun to imagine marijuana could also be benign sufficient to go away off employment screening panels, it’s clear that the well being and security results are simply as prevalent now as they have been 35 years in the past — if no more so.

Suhash Harwani, Ph.D., is senior director of science for employer options at Quest Diagnostics.

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