Order a Drug Test Online



Three Major Reports in 2023 Highlight Current and Future State of Drug Testing

Posted on Monday, July 24th, 2023

By Bill Current, President and Founder of Current Consulting Group (CCG)

This information is provided for educational purposes only. Reader retains full responsibility for the use of the information contained herein. 

Here are three alarming trends: Drug abuse is up. Positive drug test results are increasing. The number of companies testing for marijuana is down.

We know this from three major annual reports on substance abuse and drug testing:

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA),
The Drug Testing Index (DTI) from Quest Diagnostics, and
The Annual Drug Testing Industry Survey from the Current Consulting Group.

The finger of blame can be pointed at one main culprit—the legalization of marijuana. Today, 40 states, including the District of Columbia, have made using marijuana legal for either medicinal or so-called recreational purposes. The trend to legalize marijuana corresponds precisely with the trend lines from these three major reports that indicate that substance abuse is here to stay, that drug testing is more needed than ever, and that the decision to drop marijuana from a company’s drug-test panel is ill-advised at best and potentially dangerous and costly.

SAMHSA’s Report

According to the NSDUH released on January 4, 2023, substance abuse is on the rise.[i] Key findings include:

More than 61.2 million people 12 or older used illicit drugs in 2021.
This represents an increase from 59.3 million in 2020.
52.5 million admitted to using marijuana in 2021.
This represents an increase from 49.6 million in 2020.
Additionally, 37.3 million Americans admitted to using pot in the month prior to being surveyed in 2021.
That represented an increase from 35.8 million the previous year.

In other words, marijuana use is fueling America’s dramatic overall increase in substance abuse. And one specific key indicator within the NSDUH data portends more trouble on the substance abuse horizon. According to one report:

“Among people aged 12 or older in 2021, 69.2 percent of people perceived great risk of harm from smoking one or more packs of cigarettes a day, and 68.4 percent perceived great risk from having four or five alcoholic drinks nearly every day. Percentages of people who perceived great risk from cocaine or heroin use once or twice a week were 83.7 and 92.3 percent, respectively. In contrast, about one fourth of people (26.5 percent) perceived great risk from smoking marijuana once or twice a week.”[ii]

This may be why the NSDUH reported that in 2021, 2.6 million people tried marijuana for the first time.[iii]

Bottom Line: Marijuana use is up, fear of harm from using marijuana is down, and first-time marijuana users are in the millions.

Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index

The overall increase in substance abuse is no respecter of boundaries. The latest Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index (DTI) shows a direct impact on the workplace. “The overall positivity rate in the combined U.S. workforce, based on more than nine million urine drug tests, was 4.6% in 2022 and 2021, an increase of 31.4% from the all-time low of 3.5% just 11 years ago (2010-2012). In the general U.S. workforce, positivity increased 1.8% (5.6% in 2021 versus 5.7% in 2022) and was 11.8% higher than in 2018 (5.1% in 2018 versus 5.7% in 2021).”[iv]

Regarding marijuana specifically among non-DOT tests, the DTI noted: “In the general U.S. workforce, marijuana positivity increased 10.3% year over year (3.9% in 2021 versus 4.3% in 2022). Marijuana positivity increased 11.8% (5.1% in 2021 versus 5.7% in 2022) in states in which recreational marijuana is legal and 8.3% (3.6% in 2021 versus 3.9% in 2022) in states in which medical marijuana is legal. In states in which neither recreational nor medical marijuana is legal, marijuana positivity increased 3.3% (3.0% in 2021 versus 3.1% in 2022) year over year and 14.8% over five years (2.7% in 2018 versus 3.1% in 2022).”[v]

An increase in positive drug tests conducted after workplace accidents is particularly troublesome. “The rise in marijuana post-accident positivity among private employers mirrored an increase in overall drug positivity in individuals tested post-accident. In the general U.S. workforce, rates of post-accident drug positivity increased both year over year and over the past five years in nearly all specimen types tested.

“Over the last five years, in general workforce urine testing, overall post-accident positivity increased 22.6% (8.4% in 2018 versus 10.3% in 2022). Specifically, post-accident positivity as compared to pre-employment tests in urine specimens tested for marijuana and cocaine in the general U.S. workforce was higher by 58.7% and 230%, respectively.”[vi]

Bottom Line: The legalization of marijuana appears to be a key factor in the overall increase in workplace positive drug test results and for post-accident drug testing, as well.

Current Consulting Group’s 25th Annual Drug Testing Industry Survey

All of this brings us to the results of the Current Consulting Group’s 25th Annual Drug Testing Industry Survey.[vii] The survey, co-sponsored by ClearStar, found that the legalization of marijuana continues to have a negative impact on employers’ drug testing policies. When drug testing providers were asked: “Have you had clients drop marijuana from their drug test panel in the last year?”:

53% said yes, but not many.
20% said yes, too many.
10% said no, but they expect some to do so.
16% said no.

The top reasons why employers drop marijuana from their drug-test panel include:

63% believe it makes it harder to hire new people.
42% said it is to avoid the risk of legal challenges from disgruntled applicants and employees.
27% believe it is not legal to test for marijuana in their state(s).
14% don’t want to know who the marijuana users are.
4% don’t believe testing for marijuana makes the workplace safer.
9% don’t believe it is right to test for marijuana.
4% probably use marijuana and don’t want to be hypocrites.

Bottom Line: Many studies conclude that each drug abusing employee costs, on average, $8,500[viii] per year, due to workplace accidents, workers’ compensation claims, and reduced productivity.[ix] With marijuana being the number-one drug of abuse and the drug that produces the most post-accident drug test results, to not test for marijuana is ill-advised at best and potentially dangerous.


In the final analysis for employers, it comes down to workplace safety and protecting the bottom line. For those reasons, among others, drug testing, and testing for marijuana in particular, should be a part of every company’s commitment to maintaining a safe and productive workplace.

End Notes

[i] Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States: Results from the 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health National Survey on Drug Use and Health. SAMHSA. January 2023.  https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/reports/rpt39443/2021NSDUHFFRRev010323.pdf

[ii] Ibid. p. 28.

[iii] Ibid. p. 26.

[iv] Increase Seen in the General U.S. Workforce Started Same Year First States Legalized Recreational Marijuana Overall Workforce Drug Test Positivity Persisted at Two-Decade High Across All Workers. Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index. Press Release. May 18, 2023. Find more information and the full brochure here:  https://www.questdiagnostics.com/business-solutions/employers/drug-screening/knowledge-center/drug-testing-index

[v] Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index. 2023.

[vi] Post-Accident Workforce Drug Positivity for Marijuana Reached 25-Year High in 2022, Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index Analysis Finds. The Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index (DTI). May 18, 2023.  https://newsroom.questdiagnostics.com/2023-05-18-Post-Accident-Workforce-Drug-Positivity-for-Marijuana-Reached-25-Year-High-in-2022,-Quest-Diagnostics-Drug-Testing-Index-Analysis-Finds

[vii] Current Consulting Group’s 25th Annual Drug Testing Industry Survey. May 2023.

[viii] New Analysis: Employers Can Save Average of $8,500 for Supporting Each Employee in Recovery from Substance Use Disorder NSC and NORC at the University of Chicago. December 2020. https://www.nsc.org/newsroom/new-analysis-employers-stand-to-save-an-average-of

[ix] Why Drug Testing. Current Consulting Group. William F. Current. Page 10.

© 2010-2023 The Current Consulting Group, LLC – No portion of this article may be reproduced, retransmitted, posted on a website, or used in any manner without the written consent of the Current Consulting Group, LLC. When permission is granted to reproduce this article in any way, full attribution to the author and copyright holder is required.

The post Three Major Reports in 2023 Highlight Current and Future State of Drug Testing first appeared on ClearStar.

Payment Processing


Contact Us

Copyright 2023 © ClearStar, Inc.
All rights reserved

National Locations | Privacy Statement