Workers Testing Positive for Drug Use Decreases

THE JOURNAL RECORD, June 30, 1995 | Go to article overview

Workers Testing Positive for Drug Use Decreases


NEW YORK (AP) _ The number of workers testing positive for drug use dropped in 1994 but not necessarily because fewer people are getting high, a new survey of large American corporations shows.

The findings released Thursday show companies are using better testing methods to weed out false positives. In addition, as random drug testing has increased, a greater percentage of nonabusers are tested.

Positive tests declined to 1.9 percent of workers last year, compared with 2.5 percent in 1993, the American Management Association said. Positive tests among job applicants declined to 3.8 percent, from 4.5 percent.

The survey marked the fourth time in the past five years that positive test results have declined.

It was conducted by mail this March and April among 1,151 companies that did tests on about 745,000 workers or applicants during 1994. The survey has a margin of error of plus-or-minus 2.5 percent.

"It's tempting to say there is lower drug use, but, as always in this field, things are not as simple as they seem," said Eric Greenberg, the association's director of management studies.

For one thing, the percentage of workers randomly tested went up last year due to new federal regulations requiring expanded tests of workers in transportation-related jobs.

"Any time you expand testing of people to include more people who are absent suspicion, you're going to drive test-positive rates down," said Greenberg.

This boost in testing occurred even as the percentage of companies performing drug tests of any kind has remained relatively stable for three years at about 77 percent.

A more dramatic change came in how the tests were interpreted.

Seventy-six percent of the companies that did tests as of April employed a medical review officer who analyzes all findings, judges them against the worker's medical profile and then gives the results to the employer. That's up from 48 percent in April 1994.

"These medical review officers offer significant protection to employees against, not only false positives, but true positives with a legitimate medical explanation," said Greenberg. …

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