Cheaters Always Get Busted

Drug Positivity Rates

One of the largest drug testing labs (and the lab we use) is Quest Diagnostics. Each year they produce a report called the drug testing index. In that report is the positivity rate of drug testing based on the thousands of tests they process each year. 2022 results have not been released yet, but results from 2021 show a 4.6% positivity rate overall.

Using Quest’s data, one might assume that approximately 5% of the workforce are illicit drug users. I contest that logic because it only measures the drug tests that make it to the lab for testing. You must also consider all the cheaters out there who “refuse” the test when they leave the clinic after being caught. Not all are caught so some of those cheater’s samples make it to the lab because cheating is so prolific and because many drug test collectors are poorly trained and it’s very easy to “cheat” on them.

Using our statistics and an educated estimate, it’s my contention that the illicit drug user who is working or attempting to get a job is in the 12% range. Here’s how I got that number:

We believe we catch 98% of the cheaters that come to our clinic because our collectors are highly trained. We recorded 459 cheaters last year out of an estimated 6840 collections that we did. By our estimates 72% (334) of our cheaters simply walked out on the test and “refused” after being caught, so their test was never sent to the lab. If you conclude that those 334 (4.9% of our total 6840 collections in 2022) cheaters would have been positive that ups the Quest rate to just shy of 9.5%.

Additionally, we are very good at what we do but we would be fooling ourselves if we thought we caught every single cheater that entered our building. Plus, it’s likely our collectors forgot to add a few to the cheater board we keep (a very sophisticated system – grease pencil marks on a wall). Therefore, logic dictates that you can add a tenth or two to that 9.5% number.

And then there are the cheaters who gave us a good 2nd specimen that we sent to the lab and reported negative (either there wasn’t enough of the drug in their system to produce a positive result or their drug of choice was not on the drug test panel the employer uses). Also, some drug users stop using drugs long enough to pass a pre-employment drug test. Those 2 situations in my estimation would be another .5%.

Add negative dilute results as well. I would consider the vast majority of those results are attempts to defraud the test by diluting the specimen which would otherwise be a positive test. We calculated that 2.2% of our 2022 negatives were dilute.

Total everything and you’re knocking on the door of that 12% rate mentioned earlier.

Drug use is at an all time high (no pun intended), and 70% of drug users are employed. Some of those 70% will – and do – use on the job. Employees who use and abuse drugs and alcohol cost employers 3.6 times more than “sober” employees. That cost is in excess absenteeism, use of workers comp and health benefits and loss of productivity. These are real numbers!

Don’t ignore the statistics. The most profitable employers have vigorous drug-free workplace programs. First Choice would love the opportunity to help you put together such a program. It’s cost effective and it’s the right thing to do!