Hawaii workforce drug tests show hike in cocaine use in 2015

Local News

Drug usage discovered in workforce drug testing remained quite flat in 2015, according to end-of-year statistics compiled by Diagnostic Laboratory Services, with the exception of a hike in cocaine usage, which showed a 100 percent increase year over year.

Cocaine use jumped from 0.2 percent in fourth quarter 2014 to 0.4 percent, fourth quarter 2015. The rising trend started in the second quarter 2015, moving from 0.2 percent in first quarter 2015 to 0.4 percent in the second quarter, dipping to 0.3 percent in the third quarter and back again to 0.4 percent in the fourth quarter.

“The increase in cocaine abuse is significant even though the usage is low in comparison to most of the other drugs. Higher use was still synthetic urine, which rose to 0.8 percent in the fourth quarter 2014 and remained at that higher level throughout 2015,” said Carl Linden, scientific director of toxicology.

“Just keep in the mind the level of cocaine usage or abuse was relatively low, a small movement in numbers that looks like a huge increase, but it is significant.

“We’ve been testing now for five years for synthetic urine and it was much higher in the beginning,” Linden said, “but with social media, what we expected and what we saw was a dramatic decline in the use of synthetic urine as the blogs out there say ‘hey, the labs know how to test for this,’ but then we saw that creep back up to actually almost the second highest non-negative result that we get.”

Methamphetamine, or ice use, declined by 22 percent year over year, but is still at about 0.7 percent, which is about four times the average ice use found in workforce drug testing on the mainland (0.17 percent for 2014). Methamphetamine use in the fourth quarter 2014 and first quarter 2015 was at 0.9 percent and declined to 0.7 percent in the third and fourth quarters.

Opiate use declined 25 percent year over year, from 0.4 percent in fourth quarter 2014 to 0.3 percent in fourth quarter 2015.

Marijuana use also declined, 8 percent year over year, from 2.5 percent in fourth quarter 2014 to 2.3 percent fourth quarter 2015, which is close to the U.S. mainland 2014 positive rate of 2.4 percent.

The quarterly sample size typically includes between 7,000 to 10,000 drug tests.

Prescription drugs, such as opioids used to treat pain, are not part of workforce drug testing as mandated by federal or state law. Although in 2012, Hawaii banned several categories of “legal” synthetic drugs such as bath salts, they cannot, by federal or state law, be tested for in workplace drug testing. However, if a physician orders it, tests for synthetic drugs can be performed.

Diagnostic Laboratory Services is a medical testing laboratory that offers forensic toxicology and substance abuse testing services in the state.

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