I recently sat down with Becky Marks, she recently moved to East Helena, Montana from Seattle, Washington. Becky has been a pharmaceutical Guinea pig for the last three years, she gets paid to take new drugs that pharmaceutical companies come up with to test their side-effects on humans. I wanted to find out why.
AAIM: So Becky, I am interested in this job of yours, is testing new drugs your only job now?
AAIM: So do you make good money doing this then?
Becky: I think so, I make around two hundred and five hundred dollars a day.
AAIM: So do you know how much you made last year?
Becky: I would say somewhere between $25,000 and $30,000
AAIM: So how did you find out about this type of work?
Becky: I saw an ad on Craigslist, it was in the “Etc.” section, I think the ad said something like come try this drug for like a 100 bucks a day.
AAIM: So where do you go to participate in these tests?
Becky: Well, there are several different places where I go. Sometimes it’s part of a hospital, or a hospital like setting.
AAIM: So how long do you usually participate in these tests?
Becky: Oh, maybe three or four hours a day for some of the short ones, the longer ones last for a few weeks at a time. I once did one that lasted for 40 days, it’s like the Holy Grail of drug studies, because they pay so much.
AAIM: So, what do your friends think of this?
Becky: They think it’s great.
AAIM: Do you think they are jealous?
Becky: Maybe a little, but I don’t drink or smoke or do any illegal drugs. Most of my friends smoke weed, so they couldn’t do any of these tests. Also you can’t take any caffeine, chocolate and for some reason cranberry juice.
AAIM: How does the testing work?
Becky: They give you a physical, take your blood and urine.
AAIM: What was the first drug test trail you did?
Becky: It was for skin rashes. I was testing a special lotion.
AAIM: So what happened when they put the lotion on you?
Becky: Nothing really, I just applied this lotion to my legs three times a day and nothing really happened.
AAIM: Do they ever give you placebos?
Becky: Yeah, for each test group they give one or two of the subject’s placebos.
AAIM: So when the drug companies give you the drugs, do they monitor you?
Becky: Yes, You might take a drug once or some you take every day for weeks.
AAIM: Do you ever get hooked up on machines?
Becky: Yeah, sometimes. Usually you take the drug and then they watch you for an hour or two. They don’t want you to throw it up so they keep a close eye on you. Basically, you just sit around and talk with the other test subjects, maybe watch some tv, you know that kind of thing. I usually see the same group of people at each drug testing event. So we all sort of know each other. It’s like a little family. The only bad part is that you can’t leave once you start the test. It’s a cross between being in the hospital and being in jail. It can get un-nerving at times.
AAIM: So I take it they feed you then?
Becky: Yeah, it’s like a school cafeteria type thing, the food sucks.
AAIM: Once you did the first test, did you decide this was the thing you wanted to do for a living?
Becky: Well, not at first, I wasn’t sure I wanted to do it again after the first time. It was a whole new world I knew nothing about. You get a number and they call you by that number the whole time.
During my first test I was number 5, so they would keep calling number 5 to come back and get stuck with a needle every twenty minutes for three hours. I really hated the needle sticking. But then I went to other drug testing places and they didn’t do that. Some just do a catheter.
AAIM: What is that, exactly?
Becky: That’s where they put a needle in your arm and just leave it there and whenever they need to test your blood or anything they just hook up to the tube, very little fuss.
AAIM: Do these places think that you might have a bad reaction to their drug because you have taken so many other drugs?
Becky: Well, you are supposed to wait at least thirty days between each test. But there are a few places on the west coast, like in San Diego, San Francisco, and Sacramento. These places don’t communicate with each other, so you don’t have to wait thirty days if you want. Depends on if you need the money.
AAIM: Are you currently in drug test right now?
Becky: Yeah, I have to drive to Seattle tomorrow, I will be there for four days.
AAIM: So do your parents know about this?
Becky: Yes, they are pretty nervous about it. They think I’m strange, but they know I don’t want a regular job.
AAIM: Can I ask how old you are?
Becky: Yes, I’m twenty three
AAIM: So how long do you plan on doing this?
Becky: I really don’t know, I will probably get a normal job at some point.
AAIM: Do you ever worry about the side effects?
Becky: Not really, I know I should, but I don’t.
AAIM: Is it a good place to meet guys?
Becky: There actually isn’t a lot of younger guys in the testing groups I get involved with. Something about guys getting sterile scares them away. Older guys are the ones that I usually see.
AAIM: Have you ever had anything bad happen?
Becky: I had some mild side effects. I have been nauseous and vomited a few times. I once took a new type of pain killer and was constipated for two weeks. But nothing really bad has happened to me.
AAIM: Alright and finally would you recommend this type of work to others?
Becky: I would recommend it. Especially to people who don’t like working, you get lots of free time.