More American workers and job applicants are testing positive for prescription opiates, according to the 2009 annual Drug Testing Index (DTI) released by Quest Diagnostics. Results from 5.5 million urine drug tests reveal an 18% jump in opiate positives in the general U.S. workforce in a single year (2008 to 2009) and a more than 40% climb from 2005 to 2009.

The 2009 data also show that postaccident tests are four times more likely to turn up opiate indicators than preemployment tests, suggesting that drugs may play a role in workplace accidents.

The new DTI findings are consistent with a recent study from the Department of Health & Human Services, which reported a 111% increase in the number of emergency department visits for nonmedical use of opiates from 2004 to 2008.

Both prescribed use and misuse of opiates appear to be on the rise, says Quest. Employers, particularly those with safety-sensitive jobs, will want to address this issue comprehensively as they work to ensure employee health and safety.

Within the opiate category, the semi-synthetic opiates hyrdocodone and oxycodone showed the highest positivity rates, 1.3% and 1% respectively. The naturally occurring

opiates codeine and morphine had far lower positivity rates, .21% and .48% respectively.

The Quest DTI is published as a public service for government, media and industry and has been considered a benchmark for national trends since its inception in 1988.

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