2021 corporate drug testing positivity rates are skyrocketing! As employees start returning to the workplace following COVID-19, it’s more important now than ever for employers to implement drug testing policies and procedures. Similar to other national crises in the past, the coronavirus pandemic has led to a dramatic increase in drug test positivity rates fueled by individuals turning to self-medicating to try and cope with the rise in stressful conditions (isolation, financial challenges, health issues, etc.).
Although the United States is slowly returning to normal, similar studies involving past crises show that drug abuse increases and remains elevated long after the initial incident took place. With a year-long pandemic, we can expect no different. Prior to COVID-19, DISA historically saw programs average a 1.5% positivity rate for random drug testing. At the beginning of the 2020 pandemic in May, positivity rates jumped up to 5.36% for corporate random drug testing. While we've seen the positivity rate drop since the peak, Q1 is still up more than double from Q1 2019, jumping from 1.7% to 3.5%.
Why Corporate Testing Matters
While employees behind a desk may not always be at risk to physically harm someone, the damage to a company’s bottom line or reputation can be significant. A study from the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Inc. (NCADD) estimates that drug abuse costs employers $81 billion annually, and 75% of the estimated 14.8 million Americans who use illegal drugs are employed. Several industry studies have drawn a correlation between substance abuse by an employee and on-the-job carelessness, frequent mistakes, and poor concentration. Drug abusers are also more likely to have increased absenteeism, file for workers comp more frequently, and have lowered productivity. Depending on the size of your workplace, these employees can have a detrimental impact on workplace safety, compliance, and risk.
Substance abuse in the workplace causes roughly 65% of all on-the-job accidents, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
- Half of all workers’ compensation claims stem from substance abuse in the workplace.
- Workers with a substance abuse disorder miss nearly 50% more than their peers, averaging 14.8 days per year.
- Workers abusing pain medication are, on average, absent nearly 3x as much (29days).
- An estimated 80% of drug users supported their drug use by stealing from their work per the NDWA.
What Can Employers Do?
Drug testing positivity rates are on the rise, and history shows it could be a while before it returns to normal levels. As employers continue to deal with the fallout from a global pandemic, it’s vital to educate employees on the dangers of drug abuse, raise awareness of random drug testing programs in place, and take preventative measures to enhance safety and compliance in their workplace. By implementing a comprehensive drug testing program with multiple testing methodologies, employers can eliminate any gaps in drug use. For example, hair testing used in combination with urinalysis can expand the drug detection window up to 90-days.
It’s also important that supervisors and other appropriate employees are trained for reasonable suspicion drug testing practices. With the legalization of marijuana laws varying state-by-state, employers can take additional precautions by including a medical disclosure policy, which will require employees to inform their company when taking a prescription that could impair them in the workplace. Taking time to readdress your company’s drug testing policies and practices is a standard procedure and will help mitigate risks and prevent potential fines/fees further down the road.
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About DISA Global Solutions
Founded in 1986, DISA is the industry-leading provider of employee screening and compliance services. Headquartered in Houston, with more than 30 offices throughout the U.S. and Canada, DISA’s comprehensive scope of services includes drug and alcohol testing, background screening, occupational health, and transportation compliance. DISA assists employers in making informed staffing decisions while building a culture of safety in their workplace.