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Study Shows Rise in Positive Drug Tests Among Safety Workers

A recently released survey from Quest Diagnostics found an increase in drug test failures among safety-sensitive workers. Safety-sensitive workers include pilots, bus drivers, truck drivers and train operators who, under federal law, must receive pre-employment and random drug and alcohol testing.

The study collected data from 1.6 million drug tests from 2011. The results showed that there was a 33 percent increase in positive test results for cocaine—the highest level since 2008. In addition, the data showed an approximately 26 percent jump in tests showing amphetamine usage (such as in prescription medications like Adderall, Dexedrine, DextroStat, Desoxyn, Concerta and Ritalin) —the highest since before 2007.

The results of the study were not all negative; they showed that marijuana use among these workers was at its lowest levels since 2007. Also, the overall number of positive drug test results among safety-sensitive workers is 1.7 percent versus 4.1 percent in the general workforce.

Reasons for Increase in Positive Tests

Researchers speculate that the reason for the increase in stimulant use among safety-sensitive workers may have to do with sleepiness on the job. According to a survey by the National Sleep Foundation, 25 percent of pilots and train operators said that their drowsiness affected their work performance at least once a week. The researchers hypothesize that the workers may turn to stimulants to deal with driver fatigue.

Researchers also believe that the increase in positive tests for stimulants may be caused by a greater number of amphetamine-based prescription medicines, such as Adderall, being used to treat ADHD and other disorders.

Finally, researchers say that the jump in positive test results could be due to a reduced cutoff point for stimulants. In 2010, the federal government enacted stricter drug testing rules that lowered the allowable amount for cocaine and amphetamines for safety-sensitive workers.

An Attorney Can Help

Federal law puts safety-sensitive workers into a separate category because, due to the potential of their jobs to expose the general public to great danger, they need to be alert and clear-headed while on duty to ensure safety. A drowsy or impaired driver of any vehicle increases the likelihood that a bus, car or truck accident could become fatal or needlessly harm innocent persons.

If you or a loved one have been injured by an impaired truck driver, contact an experienced personal injury attorney. An attorney can investigate the circumstances surrounding the accident, advise you of your rights and work to recover compensation on your behalf.