According to a press release from Quest Diagnostics, the nation’s leading
abuser of Americans’ Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights provider of workplace drug screening, “Hydrocodone and Oxycodones Lead U.S. General Workforce Positives, Outranked Only by Marijuana, According to Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index™”.
As I looked at the data, I noticed that in the span from 2005 to 2011, the positive test rate for marijuana for all workplace drug tests (pre-employment, random, and post-accident) declined 20%, from 2.5% of approximately 2.4 million tests to 2.0%. That’s about 12,000 fewer cannabis consumers who were caught by a pee test.
Now if you realize that also means we spent about $50 per test for 2.4 million tests per year, that works out to $120 million worth of pee testing. If we only got positives for 2.0%, or 48,000 workers, that works out to a cost of $2,500 to catch a pot smoker with a pee test. From a purely cost-benefit analysis, then, we’d have to assume that a pot smoking employee costs a company more than $2,500 a year for this testing to make any sense. Or that a drug testing industry, with help from the feds, has successfully scared business into providing itself a steady paycheck.
Of course, we don’t cost companies anything more than any other employee costs and certainly less than hungover drinkers and multi-break-taking smokers. Urine test positives just show an employee is a cannabis consumer, not that they are stoned or have even been stoned recently. Claims of marijuana users having more absenteeism, tardiness, sick day use, productivity, etc. are specious at best, as they fail to account for the illegality of marijuana preventing its users to attain greater incomes and illegality causing its users to miss work for legal issues that wouldn’t plague alcohol drinkers. Claims of increased workplace dangers are dismissed when we recognize that the medical marijuana states, where there are thousands of employed legal users and thousands more employed illegal users, are seeing declines in workplace fatalities, injuries, accidents, and DUIs.
As these marijuana workplace positives have declined we’ve seen regular marijuana use increase. In 2005, 5.9% of the adult population (18+) used marijuana monthly, a total of over 12.8 million regular users. By 2009 the percentage had reached 6.6% and nearly 15 million adults. So two million more marijuana users but 12,000 fewer marijuana positives? Sounds like we’re either getting better at beating pee tests or just not taking pee tests.
Meanwhile, oxycodone positives have increased 96% for all urine testing, although these tests are administered about one tenth as often (280,000) for oxycodone as for cannabis (2,400,000). This despite the facts that while marijuana metabolites may be detected in urine for weeks, oxycodone metabolites are flushed from one’s system in two or three days. Furthermore, random positives for oxycodone (1.20%) are almost twice as great and post-accident positives for oxycodone (1.80%) are nearly three-times greater than pre-employment positives for oxycodone (0.65%), which suggests to me that the pre-employment screens don’t work very well at keeping oxycodone users out of the workplace.
I’d like to have some data on the breakdown of marijuana positives and I’d like to know how people’s legit prescriptions for oxycodone affect this data.