Drilling Boom Drives Permian Basin Addiction Crisis

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Rates of drug and alcohol abuse are spiking across the Permian Basin, as oilfield workers and truckers increasingly turn to illicit substances to cope with the growing demands created by the region’s unprecedented drilling boom.

Permian Basin Seeing More Positive Drug Tests

“Here we are in 2019, and drugs have crept deeper and deeper into our workplaces. Drugs have caused injuries and accidents,” Phil Young, president and chief executive officer of the West Texas Safety Training Center, recently told the Midland-Reporter Telegram.

“People tell us it’s hard for the industry to find employees and applicants who can pass the drug tests; for the industry it’s a big problem,” he added.

According to the Midland office of Drug Screen Compliance, the drug-test positivity rate currently hovers around 18% in the Permian Basin. Nationwide, however, it’s only about half that.

Marijuana shows up the most frequently, followed by cocaine, methamphetamines, and opiates.

Truckers, Other Permian Basin Workers Vulnerable to Addiction

The Permian Basin also boasts the highest driving while intoxicated rate in the Lone Star State.

Oil truck drivers, in particular, often turn to illicit drugs to manage the long hours and consecutive days that have become all-too routine in the Permian. It’s one of the reasons the region actually saw more fatal trucking crashes than any other area in Texas during 2018, despite housing less than 3% of the state’s total population.

Because of lucrative overtime that can easily push annual wages beyond six figures, many other Permian Basin oilfield workers are also vulnerable to addiction.

Permian Basin Companies Need “Open-Door Policy” on Addiction

Truck drivers and other oilfield personnel are subjected to drug screening as a condition of employment. But according to the Midland-Reporter Telegram, it’s fairly easy to pay someone to fake a test and ensure a career stays on track.

Christopher Pierce, director of marketing at The Springboard Center, a nonprofit substance abuse treatment center in Midland, has urged energy and oilfield services companies to implement an open-door policy when it comes to addiction.

“I’m an advocate for addicts. There (are) people that can help,” he said. “Addicts need to be able to go in and say ‘I’m drinking a lot. I love my job, but I need help.'”

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