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Employee Drug Use Declining, But Rx Use On The Rise

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(credit: RAUL ARBOLEDA/AFP/Getty Images)

(credit: RAUL ARBOLEDA/AFP/Getty Images)

CHARLOTTE (CBS Charlotte) – A new report has found that the U.S. has experienced a sharp decline in the amount of workers testing positive for drugs, but prescription drug usage is on the rise.

According to The Wall Street Journal, medical testing company Quest Diagnostics Inc. analyzed millions of drug tests and found that positive workplace tests for cocaine and marijuana have decreased over the past two decades.

From 1988 to last year, Quest reviewed more than 125 million urine drug tests finding that 3.5 percent of samples came back positive in 2012 compared to 13.6 percent in 1988.

Most of the urine tests administered were for pre-employment screenings while others were administered following accidents after employers suspected drug use or as part of a regular testing routine.

Between 2002 and 2012, amphetamine usage, including prescription drugs like Adderall, have more than doubled, according to the test results from Quest.

From 2005 to last year, Vicodin rose 172 percent and OxyContin rose 71 percent in positive test results.  Positive levels of painkillers in test results were also higher for workers who had been involved in an accident on the job the data found.

“Even when used under prescription, these drugs can have an impact on workplace safety,” Barry Sample, director of drug-testing technology for Quest said to WSJ.

As some states consider legalizing marijuana, drug testing in the work place could become more complicated since employers may have to update their policies.

“Ultimately, as an employer, The issue is whether people are impaired in the workplace, not whether someone smoked a joint over the weekend,” Ethan Nadelmann, founder of the Drug Policy Alliance told WSJ.

In a 2012 study, the federal Department of Health and Human Services found that 8.9 percent of full-time workers over age 18 had used illegal drugs including prescription drugs not used for medical purposes.  Part-time workers were at 12.5 percent in the same category.

Labs are now experimenting with what type of drug tests they administer since workers have found different ways to manipulate tests.

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