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Drug-Free Workplace

Marijuana, Cocaine, Meth Use in the Workplace Climbs as Opioid Use Falls

The decline of opioids is encouraging, but increased positive tests in methamphetamine and cocaine should be seen as a wake-up call for public safety.
By: | May 9, 2018 • 4 min read

While communities and health care providers work to drive down opioid usage, drug use by the American workforce remains at its highest rate in more than a decade, thanks to increases in the use of cocaine, methamphetamines and marijuana, according to Quest Diagnostics.

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2018 marks the 30th year that the company published its national Drug Testing Index™, analyzing workplace drug positivity trends.

According to the analysis, drug test positivity for the combined U.S. workforce held steady at 4.2 percent in 2017. But rising figures related to certain substances may prompt employers to review their drug testing and prevention programs.

Cocaine Use Is Increasing

The positivity rate for cocaine increased for the fifth consecutive year in the general U.S. workforce across every specimen type. In urine testing, the most common drug test specimen type, the

Kim Samano, PhD, scientific director, Quest Diagnostics

positivity rate for cocaine increased 7 percent in the general U.S. workforce.

In the federally-mandated, safety-sensitive workforce, for which only urine testing is permitted, cocaine positivity increased by 11 percent, the third consecutive year of increases in this segment.

A new pattern emerged in this year’s analysis, with cocaine positivity in urine testing increasing significantly in certain states among the general U.S. workforce. Double-digit, year-over-year increases in at least four of the five past years were seen in the states of Nebraska (91 percent increase between 2016 and 2017), Idaho (88 percent increase), Washington (31 percent), Nevada (25 percent), Maryland (22 percent increase), and Wisconsin (13 percent).

Methamphetamine Rise Is Cause for Concern

From 2016 to 2017, the percentage increase in methamphetamine positivity rates ranged from 9 percent to 25 percent in certain regions. But the current year’s figures alone don’t tell the full story of the alarming rise of the drug’s use. Quest reports that between 2013 and 2017, methamphetamine positivity increased:

  • 167 percent in the East North Central division of the Midwest (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin);
  • 160 percent in the East South Central division of the South (Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee);
  • 150 percent in the Middle Atlantic division of the Northeast (New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania); and
  • 140 percent in the South Atlantic division of the South (Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia).

Marijuana positivity increased 4 percent for the general U.S. workforce. For safety-sensitive workers, including pilots, rail, bus and truck drivers, and workers in nuclear power plants, for whom routine drug testing is required by the DOT, that increase was 8 percent.

States with recently enacted recreational use statues saw notable increases:

  • Nevada (43 percent)
  • Massachusetts (14 percent)
  • California (11 percent)

Whether those numbers indicate an actual trend remains to be seen.

Opioid Positivity Rates Continue to Decline

The good news is that significant progress has been made in the battle against opioid abuse. Quest Diagnostics’ Scientific Director Kim Samano noted in the report, “The depth of our large-scale analysis supports the possibility that efforts by policymakers, employers, and the medical community to decrease the availability of opioid prescriptions and curtail the opioid crisis is working to reduce their use, at least among the working public.”

“While there is encouraging data regarding prescription opiates, increased workplace test positives in methamphetamine and cocaine is troubling. This data should serve as a wake-up call to regulators and employers that drugs other than opioids require attention to effectively combat workplace substance abuse and maintain public safety.” — Kim Samano, PhD scientific director, Quest Diagnostics.

Nationally, the positivity rate for opiates in the general U.S. workforce in urine drug testing declined 17 percent between 2016 and 2017. Positivity for oxycodones (oxycodone and/or oxymorphone) declined 12 percent between 2016 and 2017, while hydrocodone positivity dropped by 17 percent and hydromorphones declined 22 percent.

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For opiates other than codeine, positivity rates were at their lowest in more than a decade, a trend that mirrors the CDC’s figures on the decline of opioid prescribing over the past decade.

Test results for heroin also reached a three-year low, down 11 percent from 2016 to 2017.

Those figures are positive, but the fact remains that shifting patterns of usage across geographies will continue to make it more difficult for employers to effectively focus their prevention programs and drug-free workplace efforts.

“While there is encouraging data regarding prescription opiates, increased workplace test positives in methamphetamine and cocaine is troubling. This data should serve as a wake-up call to regulators and employers that drugs other than opioids require attention to effectively combat workplace substance abuse and maintain public safety,” said Kim Samano, PhD, scientific director, Quest Diagnostics.

Risk and safety managers can view positivity rates and trend lines by zip code on Quest Diagnostics’ interactive Drug Testing Index map. &

Michelle Kerr is associate editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

High Net Worth

High Net Worth Clients Live in CAT Zones. Here’s What Their Resiliency Plan Should Include

Having a resiliency plan and practicing it can make all the difference in a disaster.
By: | September 14, 2018 • 7 min read

Packed with state-of-the-art electronics, priceless collections and high-end furnishings, and situated in scenic, often remote locations, the dwellings of high net worth individuals and families pose particular challenges when it comes to disaster resiliency. But help is on the way.

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Armed with loss data, innovative new programs, technological advances, and a growing army of niche service-providers aimed at addressing an astonishingly diverse set of risks, insurers are increasingly determined to not just insure against their high net worth clients’ losses, but to prevent them.

Insurers have long been proactive in risk mitigation, but increasingly, after the recent surge in wildfire and storm losses, insureds are now, too.

“Before, insurance was considered the only step in risk management. Now, our client families realize it is one of the many imperative steps in an effective risk management strategy,” said Laura Sherman, founding partner at Baldwin Krystyn Sherman Partners.

And especially in the high net worth space, preventing that loss is vastly preferable to a payout, for insurers and insureds alike.

“If insurers can preserve even one house that’s 10 or 20 or 40 million dollars … whatever they have spent in a year is money well spent. Plus they’ve saved this important asset for the client,” said Bruce Gendelman, chairman and founder Bruce Gendelman Insurance Services.

High Net Worth Vulnerabilities

Laura Sherman, founding partner, Baldwin Krystyn Sherman Partners

As the number and size of luxury homes built in vulnerable areas has increased, so has the frequency and magnitude of extreme weather events, including hurricanes, harsh cold and winter storms, and wildfires.

“There is a growing desire to inhabit this riskier terrain,” said Jason Metzger, SVP Risk Management, PURE group of insurance companies. “In the western states alone, a little over a million homes are highly vulnerable to wildfires because of their proximity to forests that are fuller of fuel than they have been in years past.”

Such homes are often filled with expensive artwork and collections, from fine wine to rare books to couture to automobiles, each presenting unique challenges. The homes themselves present other vulnerabilities.

“Larger, more sophisticated homes are bristling with more technology than ever,” said Stephen Poux, SVP and head of Risk Management Services and Loss Prevention for AIG’s Private Client Group.

“A lightning strike can trash every electronic in the home.”

Niche Service Providers

A variety of niche service providers are stepping forward to help.

Secure facilities provide hurricane-proof, wildfire-proof off-site storage for artwork, antiques, and all manner of collectibles for seasonal or rotating storage, as well as ahead of impending disasters.

Other companies help manage such collections — a substantial challenge anytime, but especially during a crisis.

“Knowing where it is, is a huge part of mitigating the risk,” said Eric Kahan, founder of Collector Systems, a cloud-based collection management company that allows collectors to monitor their collections during loans to museums, transit between homes, or evacuation to secure storage.

“Before, insurance was considered the only step in risk management. Now, our client families realize it is one of the many imperative steps in an effective risk management strategy.” — Laura Sherman, founding partner, Baldwin Krystyn Sherman Partners

Insurers also employ specialists in-house. AIG employs four art curators who advise clients on how to protect and preserve their art collections.

Perhaps the best known and most striking example of this kind of direct insurer involvement are the fire teams insurers retain or employ to monitor fires and even spray retardant or water on threatened properties.

High-Level Service for High Net Worth

All high net worth carriers have programs that leverage expertise, loss data, and relationships with vendors to help clients avoid and recover from losses, employing the highest levels of customer service to accomplish this as unobtrusively as possible.

“What allows you to do your job best is when you develop that relationship with a client, where it’s the same people that are interacting with them on every front for their risk management,” said Steve Bitterman, chief risk services officer for Vault Insurance.

Site visits are an essential first step, allowing insurers to assess risks, make recommendations to reduce them, and establish plans in the event of a disaster.

“When you’re in a catastrophic situation, it’s high stress, time is of the essence, and people forget things,” said Sherman. “Having a written plan in place is paramount to success.”

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Another important component is knowing who will execute that plan in homes that are often unoccupied.

Domestic staff may lack the knowledge or authority to protect the homeowner’s assets, and during a disaster may be distracted dealing with threats to their own homes and families. Adequate planning includes ensuring that whoever is responsible has the training and authority to execute the plan.

Evaluating New Technology

Insurers use technologies like GPS and satellite imagery to determine which homes are directly threatened by storms or wildfires. They also assess and vet technologies that can be implemented by homeowners, from impact glass to alarm and monitoring systems, to more obscure but potentially more important options.

AIG’s Poux recommends two types of vents that mitigate important, and unexpected risks.

“There’s a fantastic technology called Smart Vent, which allows water to flow in and out of the foundation,” Poux said. “… The weight of water outside a foundation can push a foundation wall in. If you equalize that water inside and out at the same level, you negate that.”

Another wildfire risk — embers getting sucked into the attic — is, according to Poux, “typically the greatest cause of the destruction of homes.” But, he said, “Special ember-resisting venting, like Brandguard Vents, can remove that exposure altogether.”

Building Smart

Many disaster resiliency technologies can be applied at any time, but often the cost is fractional if implemented during initial construction. AIG’s Smart Build is a free program for new or remodeled homes that evolved out of AIG’s construction insurance programs.

Previously available only to homes valued at $5 million and up, Smart Build recently expanded to include homes of $1 million and up. Roughly 100 homes are enrolled, with an average value of $13 million.

“In the high net worth space, sometimes it takes longer potentially to recover, simply because there are limited contractors available to do specialty work.” — Curt Goetsch, head of underwriting, Private Client Group, Ironshore

“We know what goes wrong in high net worth homes,” said Poux, citing AIG’s decades of loss data.

“We’re incenting our client and by proxy their builder, their architects and their broker, to give us a seat at the design table. … That enables us to help tweak the architectural plans in ways that are very easy to do with a pencil, as opposed to after a home is built.”

Poux cites a remote ranch property in Texas.

Curt Goetsch, head of underwriting, Private Client Group, Ironshore

“The client was rebuilding a home but also installing new roads and grading and driveways. … The property was very far from the fire department and there wasn’t any available water on the property.”

Poux’s team was able to recommend underground water storage tanks, something that would have been prohibitively expensive after construction.

“But if the ground is open and you’ve got heavy equipment, it’s a relatively minor additional expense.”

Homes that graduate from the Smart Build program may be eligible for preferred pricing due to their added resilience, Poux said.

Recovery from Loss

A major component of disaster resiliency is still recovery from loss, and preparation is key to the prompt service expected by homeowners paying six- or seven-figure premiums.

Before Irma, PURE sent contact information for pre-assigned claim adjusters to insureds in the storm’s direct path.

“In the high net worth space, sometimes it takes longer potentially to recover, simply because there are limited contractors available to do specialty work,” said Curt Goetsch, head of underwriting for Ironshore’s Private Client Group.

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“If you’ve got custom construction or imported materials in your house, you’re not going to go down the street and just find somebody that can do that kind of work, or has those materials in stock.”

In the wake of disaster, even basic services can be scarce.

“Our claims and risk management departments have to work together in advance of the storm,” said Bitterman, “to have contractors and restoration companies and tarp and board services that are going to respond to our company’s clients, that will commit resources to us.”

And while local agents’ connections can be invaluable, Goetsch sees insurers taking more of that responsibility from the agent, to at least get the claim started.

“When there is a disaster, the agency’s staff may have to deal with personal losses,” Goetsch said. &

Jon McGoran is a novelist and magazine editor based outside of Philadelphia. He can be reached at [email protected]