Drug violations and aviation accidents: Findings from the US mandatory drug testing programs

Guohua Li, Susan P. Baker, Qi Zhao, Joanne E. Brady, Barbara H. Lang, George W. Rebok, Charles Dimaggio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Aims To assess the role of drug violations in aviation accidents. Design Case-control analysis. Setting Commercial aviation in the United States. Participants Aviation employees who were tested for drugs during 1995-2005 under the post-accident testing program (cases, n=4977) or under the random testing program (controls, n=1129922). Measurements Point prevalence of drug violations, odds ratio of accident involvement and attributable risk in the population. A drug violation was defined as a confirmed positive test for marijuana (≥50ng/ml), cocaine (≥300ng/ml), amphetamines (≥1000ng/ml), opiates (≥2000ng/ml) or phencyclidine (≥25ng/ml). Findings The prevalence of drug violations was 0.64% [95% confidence interval (CI): 0.62-0.65%] in random drug tests and 1.82% (95% CI: 1.47-2.24%) in post-accident tests. The odds of accident involvement for employees who tested positive for drugs was almost three times the odds for those who tested negative (odds ratio 2.90, 95% CI: 2.35-3.57), with an estimated attributable risk of 1.2%. Marijuana accounted for 67.3% of the illicit drugs detected. The proportion of illicit drugs represented by amphetamines increased progressively during the study period, from 3.4% in 1995 to 10.3% in 2005 (P<0.0001). Conclusions Use of illicit drugs by aviation employees is associated with a significantly increased risk of accident involvement. Due to the very low prevalence, drug violations contribute to only a small fraction of aviation accidents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1287-1292
Number of pages6
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2011


  • Accidents
  • Aviation
  • Drug testing
  • Epidemiology
  • Policy
  • Substance abuse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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