What the Latest Drug Testing Trends Mean for Healthcare Employers

Senior Director of Marketing

A workplace drug testing program can help employers promote a safe workplace environment. Studies have consistently shown that workplace drug testing can deter drug use among employees. A 2007 study published in Health Services Research by Christopher Carpenter found that workplace drug testing can reduce marijuana use by as much as 30 to 40 percent. For healthcare organizations, therefore, instating an effective drug testing program can safeguard patients and impact quality of care. As the healthcare landscape continues to evolve, what are the latest drug testing trends and what do they mean for healthcare organizations? Should your drug testing program change based on the latest developments and substance abuse research?

The following represent some of the biggest emerging drug testing trends and what they mean for your organization.

Drug Positivity Rates Overall are on the Rise

The Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index (DTI) is one of the industry’s greatest resource for drug trends and examines positivity by drug category, testing reason, and specimen type. According to the latest DTI data, there have been “steady increases in overall positivity in the combined U.S. workforce that reached a 10-year high.” Quest Diagnostics’ data also calls attention to increases in marijuana positivity during the past five years. Additionally, the data shows that post-accident positivity for the safety-sensitive workforce has risen 22 percent during a five-year period. The complete 2016 DTI Report is available as a free download from Quest Diagnostics website.

The NSDUH’s Latest Findings Reveal Increasing Substance Abuse Rates

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) provides national and state-level data on the use of tobacco, alcohol, illicit drugs (including non-medical use of prescription drugs) and mental health in the U.S. The latest survey data, published in 2015 by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), revealed similar trends. The 2015 survey data show that 27.1 million people aged 12 or older used an illicit drug in the past 30 days, or about 10.1 percent of Americans. Most of the illicit drug use corresponds to marijuana use (22.2 million Americans) followed by the misuse of prescription pain relievers (3.8 million Americans). Compared to the previous data from 2002-2013, the latest NSDUH data show that marijuana usage has increased.

The OIG Calls for Mandatory Drug Testing in Healthcare

Although not a recent trend, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the Department of Health and Human Services has not been silent on the topic of drug testing in healthcare. In 2014, Inspector General Daniel R. Levinson and Erika T. Broadhurst published a column in the New York Times in which they recall the unfortunate case of David Kwiatkowski, a medical technician and prescription-drug addict who infected over 45 patients with hepatitis C over the course of a decade.

In the column, Levinson and Broadhurst state, “We believe hospitals should be required to perform random drug tests on all [healthcare] workers with access to drugs. The tests should be comprehensive enough to screen for fentanyl and other commonly abused drugs and must keep up with evolving drug abuse patterns.” Further, the OIG calls for the mandatory drug testing of “all [healthcare] workers with access to drugs, including medical doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners, radiological technicians and surgical assistants.”

With the prevalence of drug and substance abuse in the healthcare industry, healthcare organizations should review their drug testing programs to assess their effectiveness safeguarding patients. Recent data show that drug use is on the rise, augmenting the need for effective drug testing programs in healthcare.

PreCheck Drug Testing Resources Kit