Use of Illicit Drugs by U.S. Workers on the Rise

Posted by: Scott Appnel
Date: July 24, 2018

HealthWorks Expands Drug Testing Program with Oral Fluid Collection Device

The national focus on prescription opioids has driven abuse of those drugs down over the last year, according to a 2018 report in the Wall Street Journal. That’s the good news. Even so, the number of American workers testing positive for cocaine, methamphetamine, and marijuana has surged – increasing to almost 5 percent of employees after decades of decline. Consequently, employers are expanding their drug testing policies and seeking more efficient ways – besides traditional urine collection – to detect drug use among their workers.

While urine tests are considered standard by some organizations including the Department of Transportation, oral fluid testing, also known as saliva testing, is gaining ground. A relatively new science, oral fluid testing has shown excellent promise, especially for detection of marijuana. Significant local absorption of the drug in the oral cavity increases the concentrations in saliva for a period after use.

Benefits of Oral Fluid Testing

Many employers are expressing a preference for employee drug testing that is less invasive than urine testing, and oral fluid testing meets many of their needs.

One of the most sought-after advantages of the oral fluid method of testing by busy employers is efficiency. Oral fluid samples are collected, under direct supervision, in about 3-4 minutes. Oral fluids do not require lavatory facilities and can be collected anywhere, including at the job site. Collection pads are put into a vial, sealed, and sent to a local lab for analysis. A positive confirmation is sent within 48 to 72 hours of testing, while negative results are usually reported the next business day.

OSHA does not consider oral fluid collection hazardous, and specimens are not subject to the same handling and disposal requirements as other bodily fluids – another plus. This can save time during preparation and administration.

Employers already using saliva testing appreciate its detection window. The test is especially effective at detecting recent use as opposed to urine tests, which require the drugs to have passed through a person’s system to enable identification. The detection window for oral fluid testing ranges from a few minutes up to about 48 hours, according to the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) – which means chronic daily users are more likely to be caught. These are the people who may pose the highest safety risk for employers.

Industries Utilizing Oral Fluid Testing

Every employer is concerned about maintaining a safe work environment, as well as maximizing the amount and quality of work completed during the workday. However, these concerns can often be concentrated in vocational areas where data has shown elevated numbers of drug users and abusers. The following referenced information provides an overview of industries that may benefit from a heightened awareness of workers’ behavior.

Construction

  • Second highest rate of substance abuse in the workplace 1
  • Fifth highest prevalence of illicit drug use in the U.S.1
  • Drug-testing programs result in a 51% reduction in incident rates within two years of implementation.2

Manufacturing

  • More than 1.1 million manufacturing employees abuse drugs 3,4
  • Drug- and alcohol-abusing employees are 3.6 times more likely to be involved in a workplace accident and five times more likely to file a workers’ compensation claim.5
  • Drug-testing programs result in a 51 percent reduction in incident rates within two years of implementation.6

Retail

  • Eighty percent of drug abusers steal from their workplace.7
  • Employee theft accounts for 35 percent of retail shrinkage; over $15 billion annually.8
  • Drug-testing programs result in a 51 percent reduction in incident rates within two years of implementation.9

Oral Fluid Testing is Available for Local Employers

Locally, oral fluid testing is available through HealthWorks, the occupational health services provider operating under the umbrella of Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) and its subsidiary Populytics. HealthWorks is an approved provider, and uses the Intercept i2he® Oral Fluid Collection Device produced by local medical device manufacturer OraSure* Technologies, with lab testing conducted by Health Network Laboratories.

For more information on how oral fluid collection can complement your organization’s current drug testing program, contact Scott Appnel, Manager of Marketing and Client Engagement at HealthWorks: 610-969-2972 or [email protected].


1) SAMHSA. The CBHSQ Report, April 16, 2015. Substance Use and Substance Use Disorder by Industry. https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/report_1959/ShortReport-1959.pdf.

2) Gerber, J.K. and Yacoubian Jr., G.S. (2002) An Assessment of Drug Testing within the Construction Industry. Journal Drug Education, Vol. 32 No. 1, pp. 53-68. © 2017-2014

3) Industries at a Glance: Manufacturing NAIC 31-33. U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. https://www.bls.gov/iag/tgs/iag31-33.htm, accessed 7/17/2017.

4) Bush, Donna M., Ph.D., Lipari, Rachel N., Ph.D., National Survey on Drug Use and Health,

5) How does substance abuse impact the workplace? U.S. Department of Labor elaws/asp/drugfree/benefits.htm. http://webapps.dol.gov/elaws/asp/drugfree/benefits.htm, accessed 7/20/2017. April 16, 2015. http://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/report_1959/ShortReport-1959.html, accessed 7/17/2017.

6) Gerber, J.K. and Yacoubian Jr., G.S. (2002) An Assessment of Drug Testing within the Construction Industry. Journal Drug Education, Vol. 32 No. 1, pp. 53-68.

7) National Drug-Free Workplace Alliance. Accessed July 18, 2017. http://www.ndwa.org/aboutus.php.

8) National Retail Federation. 2017, 2016, 2015 National Retail Security Survey (Industry Research). https://nrf.com/resources/retail-library/national-retail-security-survey-2017 and various

9) Gerber, J.K. and Yacoubian Jr., G.S. (2002) An

Assessment of Drug Testing within the Construction Industry. Journal Drug Education, Vol. 32 No. 1, pp. 53-68. © 2017-2014

* OraSure Technologies, Inc. Intercept i2he® is a registered trademark OraSure Technologies, Inc. INT0210-HNL (rev. 07/17)

Sources:
Wall Street Journal, May 8, 2018
https://www.wsj.com/articles/more-u-s-workers-test-positive-for-illicit-drugs-1525777200

Society for Human Resource Management
https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/talent-acquisition/pages/hair-salivaurine-drug-testing-methods-specimens.aspx