Workers and job applicants are failing drug tests at a sharply higher rate this year, officials at Oregon’s largest drug-testing labs tell the Oregonian. Oregon Medical Laboratories in Eugene reports that its rate of positive employment-related tests jumped to 6.9 percent in the first six months of this year from 5.3 percent in the same period a year ago — a more than 30 percent increase. The laboratory processes about 150,000 workplace-related drug tests a year, including hiring and random tests. The lab’s statistics omit tests from employers regulated by the U.S. Department of Transportation, such as trucking firms, which have been required to test workers randomly for drugs since 1989 and have lower positive rates as a result.
Lab directors and other workplace consultants speculate that Oregon’s rapidly growing economy is luring formerly unemployed drug users into new jobs. Others in the drug-testing business speculate that employers may be doing a better job of giving drug tests in ways that prevent workers’ drug use from escaping detection. Kent Johnson of Legacy Metrolab in Portland, the only other federally certified drug-testing laboratory in Oregon, he also has seen a sharp increase this year. While marijuana remains the most frequently detected drug, showing up in more than half of all positive tests, methamphetamine appears to be the fastest-growing illegal drug of choice among workers. Johnson said positive test rates for amphetamines increased 15 percent between 2003 and 2004 among his lab’s samples.