More workers, job applicants testing positive for pot, amphetamines


Now all I have to do is pee in the cup! It’s a familiar refrain from job hunters who’ve just landed an offer. Passing a pre-employment drug test is as essential as providing a Social Security number to many American employers.

As hirers complain about the difficulty of finding and keeping good workers, alarms should sound based on the latest Quest Diagnostic report. For the first time in more than a decade, the drug testing company said last week, more applicants and workers tested positive for drug use than the year before.

The career advice is clear: If you want to get or keep a job, especially one that does random testing, your private habits can have big financial consequences — no paycheck. It’s so obvious that it feels silly saying it. But more people are getting caught.

The marijuana uptick was led by results in Colorado and Washington, the two states with recreational use laws for the drug. Compared with a 5 percent national increase Quest found for marijuana, rates exploded 20 percent and 23 percent in those states.

Other recent surveys show a more relaxed view of marijuana among the U.S. population, especially young people. Marijuana’s relative harm could be debated endlessly, but the fact is that testing positive can prevent employment.

Then there are amphetamines, which recorded their highest use rate in Quest’s drug tests since 1997. Amphetamines are medically prescribed for reasons such as ADHD and narcolepsy, but abuse is a problem.

More worrisome was a methamphetamine spike to its highest rate since 2007. This illegal drug causes all kinds of mental and physical horrors. Complain if you will about employer testing, but nobody needs this kind of worker.

Quest said that in tests ordered “for cause,” possibly suspecting drug use, more than a quarter of the tests confirmed the suspicion. That’s enough to bring on the cups.

To reach Diane Stafford, call 816-234-4359 or send email to Follow her online at and