A good drug testing program can help companies promote a safe workplace and support a productive environment.

Research has persistently shown that workplace drug screening can discourage drug use among workers. In addition to making a workplace safe, a drug-screening policy can positively affect productivity and quality of products and services.

One of the many challenges associated with drugs in the workplace is the constantly changing nature of it. The country is still in the grips of an opioid epidemic. Marijuana is being decriminalized, legalized and even touted as a promising medicine, resulting in many stereotypes around this drug falling away.

Employers have to keep up with these changing trends as they relate to drug testing if they want to appear “in touch” with society. Consider the following drug testing trends for 2019 and seek legal advice on potentially modifying your organization’s drug-testing policy.

Positive tests are on the rise

According to data from Quest Diagnostics, there have been increases in the reported rates of positive tests across the U.S., recently hitting a 10-year high. The company, which performs countless drug screening tests, emphasized there have been major increases in positive tests for marijuana during the past five years.

A rise in positive tests corresponds to an overall increase in reported drug use. A survey published in 2015 by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found more than 27 million people over the age of 12 reporting the use of an illicit drug in the past 30 days, equal to about 10 percent of Americans. Reported by more than 22 million Americans, marijuana use was the most popular, followed by the abuse of prescription pain killers (3.8 million Americans). The NSDUH data showed reported marijuana usage had increased significantly compared to data spanning 2002 to 2013.

Marijuana testing is (slowly) on the decline

Given the rising tide of marijuana decriminalization and changing attitudes, it shouldn’t be surprising that use of the drug is getting more prevalent.

Employers appear to be responding to this shift not by stepping up testing for the drug, but by decreasing it. Mandatory marijuana testing used to be a common policy, but now, many companies are shying away from it. The trend is likely being supported by today’s highly competitive labor market.

Termination due to a failed test on the decline

In addition to decreasing focus on marijuana testing, employers also appear to be increasingly willing to work with existing employees when they fail a drug test.

Often, alternatives to termination include a “last-chance agreement” and/or mandatory enrollment in a substance abuse counseling program. Employers have reported that last-chance agreements can be challenging, particularly with respect to legal and administrative issues. Despite these attempts, more than one-third of employers routinely report firing one or more staff members over the previous 12 months.

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