Whoa. Drug use in the U.S. workforce is at a 12-year high

Jeanine Skowronski


Jeanine Skowronski

Jeanine Skowronski

Former Head of Content at Policygenius

Jeanine Skowronski is the former head of content at Policygenius in New York City. Her work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, American Banker Magazine, Newsweek, Business Insider, Yahoo Finance, MSN, CNBC and more.

Published July 11, 2017 | 2 min read

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So here’s a scary stat: Drug use in the U.S. workforce has hit a 12-year high, largely due to illicit drug habits.Per recent research from Quest Diagnostics, overall positivity in urine drug testing among the combined U.S. workforce was 4.2% last year, an increase from 4.0% in 2015. As we intimated earlier, that's the highest annual positivity rate since 2004 (4.5%).Quest has analyzed annual workplace drug testing data since 1988. Its latest research is based on drug test results from three categories of workers: federally mandated, safety-sensitive workers, the general workforce and the combined U.S. workforce.Cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamines, which are all (more or less) illegal, posted significant detection increases across categories year over year. Heroin served as the outlier. After four years of increases, its detection held steady in the general U.S. workforce. It actually dipped among federally mandated, safety-sensitive workers.One other spot of good news: Prescription opiate detection in urine testing declined among the general workforce. Quest attributes the decrease to state and federal efforts to address the recent opioid crisis.Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, opioids killed more than 33,000 people in 2015, more than any year on record. Nearly half of those deaths involved a prescription opioid. The National Institute on Drug Use has resources on its website outlining what you can do if you or a loved one is struggling with drug addiction.

How does drug use affect life insurance?

Drug misuse can lead to a host of long term and short term health issues, including stroke, heart or lung disease, cancer, mental illness and death. Given these risks, most life insurance companies deny coverage to an applicant who tests positive for addictive drugs, including cocaine, meth, heroin, non-prescription painkillers or opioids. Testing occurs during the standard paramedical exam required during underwriting.There are simplified issue or guaranteed issue life insurance policies out there that let you skip the medical exam, but, as an FYI, these policies carry higher premiums by default. When it comes to traditional term life insurance or whole life insurance, applicants generally need to stay clean for three years to get coverage. You can learn more about how past drug use can affect your premiums here.One caveat: Marijuana is a different in that its use doesn’t necessarily result in automatic denial. If you smoke weed frequently, however, you could face higher insurance rates.Having said all that, some insurers are more lenient when it comes to past drug use and a current marijuana habit. PolicyGenius can help you shop around and identify these life insurance companies. But, if you’re not ready to pull quotes just yet, check out our primer on the best rates marijuana users can expect from major insurers.