Workforce drug use in Hawaii stable in first quarter of 2016

Graphic courtesy DLS

The medical testing Diagnostic Laboratory Services reported Friday that drug use at work in Hawaii has stabilized through March of this year.

“Our first quarter workforce drug testing results indicate drug use has stabilized, including the use of synthetic urine, which steadily rose the last couple of years and cocaine use, which had a big jump last year,” said Carl Linden, scientific director of toxicology.

Synthetic urine results stayed at 0.9 percent, and cocaine at 0.3 percent was down first quarter 2016 from 0.4 percent quarter 2015, but still up from 0.2 percent in the first quarter 2015.

Marijuana use, the result that most frequently shows up in workforce drug testing, had a minor uptick from 2.3 percent in fourth quarter 2015 to 2.4 percent in first quarter 2016, but down from 2.5 percent in the first quarter 2015.

Opiate use was unchanged at 0.3 percent from fourth quarter 2015, but up from 0.2 percent in first quarter 2015.

The result for amphetamine use was up slightly from 0.7 percent in fourth quarter 2015 to 0.8 percent first quarter 2016, but down from 0.9 percent in first quarter 2015.

“That’s good news for now,” Linden said. “The new national concern coming to light is the explosion in physician prescriptions for amphetamines, reportedly to treat ADHD, particularly women ages 26 to 34. This group shows an 85 percent growth in ADHD prescriptions in the last five years. We may start seeing some of this in workforce drug testing, but like the alarming rise of opiate use, if it’s prescribed by a physician, it will not be reported in drug testing results.”

The lab’s quarterly sample size typically includes between 7,000 to 10,000 drug tests. In 2012, Hawaii banned several categories of ‘legal’ synthetic drugs, such as bath salts, but they cannot be tested for in workplace drug testing according to federal and state law. However, if a physician orders it, tests for synthetic drugs can be performed.

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