The American Work Force Is More Stoned Than Usual

Steve Birr | Vice Reporter

Marijuana and cocaine use are making a comeback among American workers, who are testing positive for drugs at a level not seen in 12 years.

Quest Diagnostics, which conducts medical and workplace laboratory tests, says the number of workers testing positive for marijuana increased by 4 percent overall in 2016, with much larger increases in states with legalized recreational weed. States with fully legal marijuana had roughly double the increase in workers testing positive for the substance. More than 1 in 25 workers are now failing their drug tests, reports The Wall Street Journal.

Marijuana remains the most used drug in workplaces, but other substances, particularly amphetamines, are also cropping up in greater numbers at the office. Roughly 4.2 percent of urine samples tested for employers by Quest last year came up positive for some kind of illicit substance.

Despite recreational legalization laws in states like Colorado and Washington, employers can still choose to fire someone if they test positive for marijuana. The risk is not deterring use in Colorado however, where positive marijuana tests are up 11 percent over the previous year.

The increase in positive test for amphetamines, which includes cocaine and Adderall, is particularly concerning to employers. The rate of employees using these substances rose from 0.97 percent to 1.1 percent in 2016.

A survey recently released by the National Safety Council reveals more than 70 percent of workplaces are also feeling the negative effects of prescription painkiller and heroin abuse. Nearly 40 percent of employers surveyed by the National Safety Council said employees are missing work due to painkiller abuse, with roughly the same percent reporting employees abusing the drugs on the job.

“Today it’s everybody,” Dr. Michael Miller, medical director of the Herrington Recovery Center at Rogers Memorial Hospital in Oconomowoc, Wisc., told Biz Times in March. “It’s every ethnic group. It’s men and women, it’s old and young and everybody in between.”

Despite the problems opioid abuse is causing in the workplace, many employee drug tests do not look for the substance. Fifty-seven percent of businesses test for drugs, but 41 percent of those businesses do not test for opioids.

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