Workforce drug use increased each year—and by double digits over two years—between 2015 and 2017 in five of 16 major U.S. industry sectors analyzed in a new study.

The Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index looked at industry-specific data from more than ten million urine drug test results. The analysis relied on the NAICS for its industry classifications.

Results showed five industry sectors experienced year-over-year increases in drug test positivity rates between 2015 and 2017: Transportation and Warehousing (21.4%), Other Services (Except Public Administration) (15.4%), Finance and Insurance (13%), Retail Trade (12.8%), and Wholesale Trade (11.8%).

The Retail Trade (5.3%), Health Care and Social Assistance (4.7%), and Real Estate Rental and Leasing (4.6%) sectors had the highest overall positivity rates in 2017, while the Utilities (2.8%) and Finance and Insurance (2.6%) sectors had the lowest rates.

"Our analysis suggests that employers can't assume that workforce drug use isn't an issue in their industry," said Quest Diagnostics' Barry Sample, Ph.D., in a statement. Sample is senior director, science and technology, Quest Diagnostics Employer Solutions.

"In fact, drug test positivity in the majority of industry sectors analyzed is growing. The highest rates were in consumer-facing industries, including jobs in Retail and Health Care and Social Assistance."

Marijuana Most Detected Substance

The research found that marijuana was the most commonly detected substance, with the highest drug positivity rate of all drug classes across the majority of industry sectors.

Marijuana positivity was highest in Accommodation and Food Services, at 3.5% in 2017, more than 34% higher than the national positivity rate of 2.6% for the general U.S. workforce.

Employers can't assume that workforce drug use isn't an issue in their industry.
Eight sectors experienced year-over-year increases with at least 20% increases in marijuana positivity rates between 2015 and 2017:

  • Transportation and Warehousing (33.3%)
  • Other Services (except Public Administration) (33.3%)
  • Construction (26.7%)
  • Wholesale Trade (23.5%)
  • Manufacturing (23.1%)
  • Accommodation and Food Services (20.7%)
  • Administrative Support, Waste Management and Remediation Services (19.0%)
  • Retail Trade (18.5%)

Methamphetamine and Cocaine

Other drugs high on the list of detected substances include methamphetamine; positivity rates were highest in the Construction sector in each of the three years analyzed and saw a 15% increase during that period.

The study also found that cocaine use was higher in most industry sectors in 2017 than in 2015, with the following sectors experiencing the greatest year-over-year rise in cocaine positivity between 2015 and 2017:

    • Retail Trade (42.9%)
    • Administrative Support, Waste Management, and Remediation Services (35.3%)
    • Transportation and Warehousing (22.7%)

Other Key Findings

The Retail Trade Sector had the highest 2017 positivity rate of all 16 sectors analyzed. In addition to a nearly 43% rise in cocaine positivity between 2015 and 2017—overall twice the increase of the general U.S. workforce—marijuana positivity increased more than 18% in the sector.

Between 2015 and 2017, the Transportation and Warehousing sector experienced the largest overall positivity increase of any sector, in large part due to significant increases in cocaine and marijuana positivity (more than 22% and 33% respectively).

In the manufacturing sector, marijuana and methamphetamine positivity increased year-over-year by more than 23% and 27%, respectively, between 2015 and 2017.


CONN-OSHA is holding a breakfast roundtable discussion, Marijuana and Opioids in the Workplace…Statistics, Symptoms, and Solutions, Jan 15, 2019, from 8:15 am to 9:45 in Wethersfield. Pre-registration is required.

 CBIA's on-demand safety compliance training program (powered by Training Network Now) is a convenient, cost-effective way for you to protect your employees and your business. CBIA members save 90% off the regular price. Sign up or register for a free, no-obligation 14-day trial today!