News & Opinion | August 25, 2020 11:56 am

Positive Drug Tests Among US Workers Are Higher Than They’ve Been in 16 Years

There's a lot more marijuana in our urine these days, and a little more of everything else, too

drug tests
Positive drug test rates are on the rise.
Getty Images

Everything sucks and we’re all on drugs. That seems to be the biggest takeaway from a new report that found the rate of positive drug tests for American employees climbed to its highest level in 16 years last year.

The findings from Quest Diagnostics, one of the largest drug-testing laboratories in the U.S., found the proportion of workers who tested positive for drugs in 2019 rose to 4.9 percent, the Wall Street Journal reported. That percentage marks a 29 percent increase from the 30-year low of 3.5 percent a decade ago.

While positive tests for various drugs such as methamphetamines and cocaine have contributed to the rise in part, the report found — rather unsurprisingly — that marijuana has been the biggest source of the increase in positive test results. Positive tests for marijuana saw an 11 percent increase in 2019 from the year before, and a 29 percent increase from 2015.

This, obviously, probably has more to do with the fact that multiple states legalized recreational marijuana in that four-year span than my earlier speculation that we’re all living in hell and relying more heavily than ever on the sweet release of mind-altering substances, but experts haven’t entirely ruled out it out.

While the findings of the 2019 data can’t be attributed to any COVID-19-related factors, initial research does suggest that substance abuse has been on the rise amid the pandemic, the Wall Street Journal noted.

“There is concern about the potential impact that COVID-19 is having on depression and people’s substance use patterns,” said Barry Sample, Quest’s senior director for science and technology, who added that the rate of positive drug tests was already on the rise even before the pandemic.

Only time will tell how many more drugs have been showing up in everyone’s urine this year, but my own educated guess puts the answer somewhere in the range of: probably a lot!

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