New data shows big spike in the number of U.S. employees using illicit drugs

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Drug use in the U.S. workforce has skyrocketed, according to new data released this week. A study says more American workers are using drugs now than in the past ten years. The data shows more workers are using meth, cocaine, and marijuana.

The data was released by Quest Diagnostics which completes hundreds of workplace drug tests for companies across the country. Last year, Quest Diagnostics tested 10 million urine samples of U.S. workers and found that the use of meth skyrocketed in the Midwest. According to the data, in just the past four years, meth use increased 167% in the Midwest, including in Indiana. Levels of marijuana use also grew in the states that legalized the drug, while cocaine positivity had a big spike for the fifth year in a row.

“They can definitely pose a safety concern,” said Barry Sample the senior director and science and technology for Quest Diagnostics.

Cindy Costello of Witham Toxicology Lab based out of Boone County says her local lab has seen a spike in the illicit drug use in Central Indiana but says marijuana use has not grown.

“Cocaine is beginning to pop up again. It was nearly eradicated and now we have seen it surge in the last year. Particularly the last six months,” said Costello.

Costello says if employers drug tested more frequently and for a wider array of drugs, like fentanyl and synthetic opioids numbers would be even higher.

“If they randomly drug tested their employees they probably would not have any employee left. They would have to fire them and they would not be able to keep any employees because they know their drug use is high in the workplace,” said Costello.

According to Quest, not as many U.S. workers are using opiates like morphine and oxycodone but still, research from the council on alcohol and drugs says nearly 77% of drug users are employed in full and part time jobs. The data shines a light on a dangerous and growing problem for American companies.

“I think it may be mirroring more broadly the availability of these drugs in society,” said Sample.

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