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Oral Fluid Reveals More Heroin Use Than Previously Believed, According to Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index


MADISON, N.J., Jan. 25, 2011 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ --

Oral fluid has revealed approximately five times more heroin use in the general U.S. workforce than previously believed, according to new data today released by Quest Diagnostics Incorporated (NYSE: DGX), the world's leading provider of diagnostic testing, information and services. In the company's first special report on oral fluid testing with more than 320,000 oral-fluid samples from the general U.S. workforce from January to June 2010, data reveal that oral fluid testing detected a marker for heroin use at a rate of 0.04% compared to the 0.008% positivity rate in urine testing.

The oral fluid data findings align with early data from more than 350,000 urine samples tested from October 1 to December 31 2010 showing that new, federally-mandated urine drug testing rules succeeded in finding 20 percent more positives for the heroin marker 6-acetylmorphine, or 6-AM, among transportation workers subjected to the testing.

"Oral fluid testing is helping employers find more heroin users," said Dr. Barry Sample, director of science and technology for Quest Diagnostics Employer Solutions. "In addition, while findings are preliminary, new federal requirements appear to be weeding out more heroin users from safety sensitive roles -- where impairment from heroin use can cause particularly grave impact."

Both oral fluid testing and the new federally-mandated urine testing process for safety-sensitive workers involve sensitive initial testing for the 6-AM heroin marker. In the past, safety-sensitive worker urine testing for heroin was performed only after a positive morphine test result, because heroin metabolizes to 6-AM, and then to morphine.

As of October 1, 2010, in addition to lowering the cutoffs for amphetamines and cocaine, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) joined the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to require urine testing for the heroin marker specifically. Among those transportation workers subject to the new rule, the newly mandated testing process for the heroin marker revealed a nearly 20% jump in positive results - 0.011%, in the fourth quarter of 2010, vs. 0.009%, in the same period in 2009 - as compared to the previous heroin detection program. The government also required testing for ecstasy (MDMA). During the first three months of testing under the new requirements, the additional test for ecstasy yielded a positivity rate (0.004%) consistent with expected rates based on historical non-regulated testing data.

Urine drug testing and alternative specimen testing, such as hair and oral fluid testing, are used by employers to help maintain a drug-free workplace. Oral-fluid testing, which detects recent drug use, offers the advantage of an observed collection and is easily administered by the hiring manager. There also are no known adulterants that can be used to tamper with oral-fluid testing. Urine testing, the most commonly used screening method, is an accurate and reliable way to detect casual drug use for a broader range of substances that occurred within the past 72 hours. Hair testing, which also affords little opportunity for specimen tampering, is the only drug-testing method available that provides up to a 90-day history of repetitive drug use.

According to Dr. Sample, "Today, employers have available to them a powerful array of resources to protect their business, their employees, and the public they serve from the risks and harm that can result from worker drug use. Alternative specimen testing, such as oral fluid and hair testing, has added convenience and flexibility to employer drug testing programs, and helps employers to effectively custom-design programs that address the unique configuration of their workforce."

For more information on the Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index, visit

The Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index is published as a public service for government, media and industry and has been considered a benchmark for national trends since its inception in 1988. It examines positivity rates -- the proportion of positive results for each drug to all such drug tests performed -- among three major testing populations: federally mandated, safety-sensitive workers; the general workforce; and the combined U.S. workforce. Federally mandated, safety sensitive workers include pilots, bus and truck drivers, and workers in nuclear power plants, for whom routine drug testing is mandated by the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

About Quest Diagnostics Employer Solutions Business

Quest Diagnostics' Employer Solutions Business offers a comprehensive menu of testing and collection programs to manage employers' pre-employment and employee drug testing, wellness services, national clinical testing, background checks and OSHA requirements. A national leader in drug testing, Quest Diagnostics performed approximately 7.5 million drug tests in 2010, and leads the industry in drug-testing program options and tools, including urine, oral fluid and hair testing; customized panels; sport-related testing for performance-enhancing drugs; specialized testing of healthcare professionals, and a drug testing program ROI calculator, available online at The Quest Diagnostics Blueprint for Wellness (, a health risk identification solution and education tool for employers, uses laboratory insights to provide measurable results that help participants manage health risk more effectively, in turn reducing healthcare spending and costs.

About Quest Diagnostics

Quest Diagnostics is the world's leading provider of diagnostic testing, information and services that patients and doctors need to make better healthcare decisions. The company offers the broadest access to diagnostic testing services through its network of laboratories and patient service centers, and provides interpretive consultation through its extensive medical and scientific staff. Quest Diagnostics is a pioneer in developing innovative new diagnostic tests and advanced healthcare information technology solutions that help improve patient care. Additional company information is available at:

Quest Diagnostics Contacts:

Barb Short (Media): 973-520-2800

Kathleen Valentine (Investors): 973-520-2900

SOURCE Quest Diagnostics

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