News Local/State

Marijuana, Heroin, Cocaine: Drug Test Results Vary Throughout Illinois

A marijuana plant.

More than 3% of workplace drug tests in Sangamon County came back positive for marijuana Flickr/JouWatch/CC-BY-SA-2.0

The rate of positive test results for workplace drug testing is on the rise, both in Illinois and nationally.  But drill down a bit and you’ll notice regional differences in which drugs are more likely to show up.

One of the leading testing firms, Quest Diagnostics, released a breakdown.  The interactive map is here

It shows marijuana remains the most common drug to appear in test results.  But the rate is higher in Sangamon County and other parts of central Illinois. Sangamon County is the only place in the state where more than 3 percent of tests were positive for marijuana. 

Some have theorized the growing acceptance of medical marijuana and legalization have led to more use of the drug.

Heroin, meanwhile, is more likely to be detected in the Rockford area. Cocaine is more common in Chicago’s southern suburbs and opiates in southern Illinois. 

Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz reported on the numbers for the Chicago Tribune. She said the overall findings are cause for concern.

“In the 80s, when they first started tracking this…14 percent of drug tests were coming back positive,” she said.  “That plunged down below 4 percent in the 2000s. And then just over the past 4 or 5 years it started creeping back up again.”

Last year, 4.2 percent of test results came back positive, the highest rate since 2004.   

Drug tests can help businesses avoid hiring people with a drug problem who could create safety concerns.  But it’s not that simple.

“A lot of employers who do drug tests at the beginning, at the hire, so many applicants come back positive they have to look the other way or they have a really hard time (filling positions),” Elejalde-Ruiz added. 

“Marijuana use is just so prevalent. Even when you can prepare for (testing), people seem to be showing up with marijuana in their system anyway.”