Drugs Are Bad…

Would you let strange people put weird chemicals in your system for cash?

It’s a simple question that most right thinking people would answer with a plain: No!

The irony that a good chunk of those self-same right thinking people snort and neck unknown chemicals every weekend and pay handsomely for the privilege tickles me a lot.

Being a human guinea pig is not really an attractive proposition for most folk. They prefer their immune system untampered, their urine unsampled and their blood unextracted. There are however people that in occasions of dire need or times of I fancy going travelling for six months and need to make a fast buck without resorting to being a drug mule for the Columbians do take up the option of being a global drug companies chew toy.

Drug trials are normally thought of as the domain of strapped students needing another years worth of beer tokens or South African surfers stopping in the UK for an easy travel fund top up. This is the bulk of the traffic but you get people from all walks of life prepared to be experimented on for cashola … like me.

All in the name of research of course, helping out mankind as it quests for cures to the worlds ills and it would give me a valuable insight into a murky world of rumour and Chinese whispers that surrounds drug trials from a journalistic point of view.

It was nothing at all to do with the idea that I could finally, actually get paid to stay in bed. The concerns about my head exploding or appendages dropping off whilst getting my distended face on the six o’clock news was put to the back of my mind.

From typing in drug trial to Google to the first screening at the hospital was a week. So the service is good.

Eligible trialists must be in short supply. Maybe it’s the long shadow cast by the trial that went very publicly wrong (swollen heads and some light amputations) that was splashed all over the media or more likely the fail rate at screening is high. To get on a drug trial and allow yourself to be polluted with weird chemicals you must ironically be a paragon of virtue.

No smoking, no drugs (legal or illegal), not too fat or old and have pulse, blood pressure and heart activity all within strict parameters.

There’s no way around blood and urine tests and an ECG monitor. They will know if when you ticked the NO box for Are you a recreational drug user? you fibbed. So being clean and healthy as a mule I got accepted.

Next step was a few weeks later when we got to go to the hospital in London village for the trial itself. This was what I was looking forward to: the getting paid to be lazy bit.

The first day (known as Day minus one in trial lingo) was mellow, a repeat of the screening tests to make sure nothing had changed in the interceding days (with 57% of the nations populace and 87% of people on my train seemingly suffering with bird flu I thought catching it at some point in between was guaranteed but I survived) and the day was filled with some book reading, some light web wandering (free WiFi of course) and a fine roast beef dinner.

The next day was when it all kicked off. Big style. 6 a.m. start, research nurses beavering away, equipment everywhere and two of the six guys in my ward getting winged out last minute on the back of failing the second screening.

Leaving me the sole survivor from the original eight guys I initially screened with. This was the bit you get the money for, the trial itself, Day One.

Cue 25 electrodes gaffa-taped to the chest; they shave you, dry and brutal, if you’re proper yeti-style hairy like the poor sod in the bed next to mine. Two recording machines the size of a card machine hanging off of the web of cabling. A canula whacked in the arm, in essence a blood taking tap, saves repeated syringe stickings and boy does the needle they put in put the fear of god into you, it’s about two inches long and is as wide as cocktail stick and then you get the drug itself, administered orally in our case.

Then it’s a circus of 15 minute interval blood samples, blood pressure and ECG tests and you lying there covered in cables chuckling at the ridiculousness of it all whilst waiting for your head to explode or your blood to run out.

Thankfully it didn’t. I did worry that my old chap might never raise his head again with the amount of blood they stole but apparently the human body is a cunning machine that can build it’s own blood if someone nicks yours. So that was all good.

Eight hours after the start of the trial I was finally allowed out of bed for lunch, which was nice. Then back for an afternoon of more tests but at a more relaxed pace. No one in our group noticed any effects at all, the drug was an anti-inflammatory thing for asthma sufferers but at a really low dose as it was early days in the testing cycle.

So we were quite smug and chuckled at the guys in the next room who’d lost the ability to sense heat on their skins … until two of them scalded themselves in the shower.

The next day was a breeze, two blood tests, one wee sample, more book reading, Interwebbing, another roast dinner and bed. The next morning we were let out.

£850 for three and a bit days of chilling out, chatting to some amusing co-trialists and catching up on a lot of reading, emails and work (I even sold an ad shot while I was in there). Not to mention a roast every day.

I think I’ve found my dream job.