More than 1 in 4 workers using drugs, new data shows

Warrington-based AlphaBiolabs analysed test results from employees across a range of business sectors and found 26.3% had illicit substances in their systems. Tony McDonough reports

Cannabis, marijuana, put, joint, drugs, smoking
Cannabis was the most common. substance identified in the tests, according to AlphaBiolabs


More than one in four UK workers may be using illegal drugs, new data from a North West private laboratory reveals.

Warrington-based AlphaBiolabs analysed test results from employees across a range of business sectors carried out between May and July last year. In May they found 30.5% of tests were positive for drugs, falling to 26.5% in June and 21.7% in July.

Across the three months that averages out at 26.3% with the most commonly-used substances were cannabis (39.7%), cocaine (17.2%) and ecstasy (3.4%). In 16.7% of cases more than one illicit substance was identified.

AlphaBiolabs says that across the whole of 2019, the average number of positive results was just 14.1%. This represents a rise of 86% The firm carries out scheduled random workplace drug and alcohol testing for companies across Britain in sectors including construction, energy, transport, utilities, manufacturing, aviation, care and healthcare.

Hair, urine, oral fluid and breathalyser samples are collected by trained staff working at the client company or by one of AlphaBiolabs’ fully-trained sample collectors.  When a sample produces a positive result on-site, a confirmatory test is carried out at its laboratory in Warrington. Traces of drugs can remain in a person’s system for a week or longer.

Director Rachel Davenport said: “We have been very surprised by the findings, as we have never seen positive rates anywhere near this level before. From the second half of March until the end of April, testing virtually ground to a halt as companies put their employees on furlough leave or stopped operating altogether.

“I believe we are now seeing the effects of employees left to their own devices during what has been a very difficult period for society. This, potentially coupled with health and money worries, may have influenced some of the decisions that have been made.

Rachel Davenport, a director at Warrington-based AlphaBiolabs


“We can only guess that employees may have slipped into bad habits while they may have been furloughed. We recommend that employers inform their staff before they return to work that testing is being conducted, and that they need to consider this and the choices they may be making before returning to work and representing their company.”

Random drug and alcohol testing is carried out by employers to deter staff from misuse and to keep them safe, rather than to catch them out, according to AlphaBiolabs.

Ms Davenport added: “Employees under the influence of drugs could cause significant harm to themselves, their colleagues, the public and the business itself. Random testing has been shown to be extremely effective as a means of reducing incidents, ill health, absenteeism and litigation.”

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