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Has Workplace Drug Testing Made a Positive Impact?

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A new study has found that workplace drug testing, in conjunction with clinical monitoring and oversight, has reduced both the overall use and spending on potentially dangerous prescription drugs and illegal substances.

Helios, a workers’ compensation specialty services provider, formally announced the findings from their in-depth studies and presented the information at the PainWeek and American Academy of Pain Management conferences.

Effects of Workplace Testing

According to Helios, 67 percent of the urine tests examined for this study had inconsistent results. These findings suggest potential drug use or tampering with the sample – including non-prescribed medications being found in the sample or prescribed medicines not showing up in the urine at all.

Out of the inconsistent results, 47 percent did not have a prescribed medication show up in the urine and 67 percent had at least one-prescribed medication. What’s more, nearly 15 percent of all samples tested positive for illegal substances including marijuana, cocaine and heroin.

Testers with inconsistent results were placed under clinical monitoring and oversight for 90 days post-testing, while their doctors were given additional information about the unexpected results of each drug test.

After initially failing a urine drug screen, testers with positive results were asked to return in three months.

Second Round of Testing

Helios’ second round of drug tests were solely conducted on employees with previously positive results…and the outcomes were certainly more encouraging.

…our drug testing and monitoring service has successfully reduced workers’ compensation payer spending on controlled substances and other medications.-Matthew FosterOf all the urine drug screens, a 34 percent reduction was seen in overall drug use and 26.5 percent decrease in spending on opioids. Additionally, benzodiazepines saw a 44 percent reduction in use and 48 percent drop in spending. All other controlled substances experienced a 36 percent reduction in use and 37 percent decrease in spending.

“By providing prescribers with additional information regarding unexpected drug test results, our drug testing and monitoring service has successfully reduced workers’ compensation payer spending on controlled substances and other medications,” said Matthew Foster, PharmD, clinical pharmacy manager for Helios. “It also resulted in decreased therapeutic risks associated with chronic pain treatment for injured workers.”

Positive Results on the Increase

Many workplace environments don’t test their employees beyond the customary pre-employment background check, which could be a contributor to the recent increase of positive workplace drug tests. In fact, 2013 saw the first increase of positive workplace drug screens in a decade.

Madison-based Quest Diagnostics confirmed that, out of the 7.6 million drug tests they conducted nationwide in 2013, 3.7 percent of them came back positive. It’s a slight increase from the 3.5 percent of positive tests in 2012, but the numbers still remain far lower than the peak of 13.6 percent in 1988.

Marijuana was the most common drug to turn up in Quest tests, with 44 percent of all positive tests coming back positive for THC.

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