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Drug Positivity Rates are on the Rise
Scott Mogensen
3 mins read


Opioid abuse has skyrocketed since the COVID pandemic started a year ago. According to a recent study by Quest Diagnostics Health Trends, there has been a 35 percent increase in the use of non-prescribed fentanyl and a 44 percent increase in heroin use. Abuse of other non-prescribed opioids has increased by 10 percent.


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This report came on the heels of the annual Quest Workplace Study which actually showed a decrease in opioid use in 2019. While good news, many experts believed the trend would be short-lived given the stress and isolation of the pandemic – and it seems like they were right. Not only are these triggers for new opioid abuse cases, but recovering addicts have been struggling to maintain the support needed to prevent a relapse.

In addition, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that new drug abuse cases have increased by 13.3 percent as a result of COVID-related stress and loneliness.

Drug Use Up – Testing Down

In addition to a sharp increase in drug positivity rates post-COVID, the Quest study found another disturbing trend: a sharp decline in the number of drug tests being conducted. In the early months of the pandemic, when lockdowns and social distancing took effect nationwide, there were up to 70 percent fewer drug tests being ordered on a weekly basis.

This is something we witnessed in the transportation industry in the early part of last year, with some safety-sensitive employers having a difficult time meeting all of their DOT drug testing requirements because of collection site closures.

Yet with such a sharp increase in opioid use, sending drivers for these tests may never have been more important.

Maintaining a Drug-Free Workplace

Although all of your DOT-regulated employees will be enrolled in a random testing program, if you have non-safety sensitive employees at your workplace, you might consider enrolling them in a Drug-Free Workplace program to discourage recreational drug use among all your employees. With drug use associated with higher absenteeism and workplace accidents, having a process in place to randomly test employees will help you maintain a safer, more productive workforce. To learn more about drug-free workplace programs and the benefits for your company, please give us a call at (800) 253-5506 or click here for more information.

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