By Jen Kastner
PERMIAN BASIN- Employers in the oilfields have been met in recent months with a growing problem. They can tell an employee is high on something, but he or she isn't testing positive for common drugs like methamphetamine or cocaine. It has become such an issue, that these employers are turning to drug testers for more help.
Mara Perry is with Midland's Drug Screen Compliance office.
She says, "We've had alot of oilfield companies and energy companies call in and ask about synthetic cannabinoids, K2 testing and those types of things because employers know there are alternative substances out there that people are using."
Contrary to popular belief, many of those testers can provide the answers employers need about synthetic drug use of substances like bath salts or K2.
"For awhile, there were tests that weren't able to detect those drugs. Now, there are," Perry said.
There are only a few local facilities testing for them right now, but with the major demand, other local testers are scrambling to do the same.
"So many people that come in still do not realize these substances are illegal," Perry said.
However, knowledge surrounding the issue is starting to spread.
Richard Vargas is the Safety Operations Manager for Midland's Sandia Drilling Company.
He says, "I'm not going to say it's a reoccurring problem, but it is a problem out in the oilfields and it's something that we don't need."
Sandia Drilling has been testing for K2 for about one year. They were one of the first energy-industry companies in the Basin to test for synthetic drugs.
"We started doing our testing and we found a few of our employees that were using it. We do have a zero-tolerance policy so we did have to let them go," Vargas said.
Although they don't test for bath salts yet, they are currently looking into it.
One of the biggest complications testing labs face is with the ever-changing components in these drugs. Manufacturers are constantly switching out the ingredients in an effort to keep the drugs in a gray zone where they're not really illegal, just yet.
"As quickly as manufacturers are adding new mixes, the laboratories have to be quick on starting to test for those new mixes," Perry said.
Many Basin employers are now adding synthetics drugs to their lists of prohibited substances.