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Suddenly Visible: Illicit Drugs As Part of Silicon Valley Culture 511

The recent death by overdose of Google executive Timothy Hayes has drawn attention to the phenomenon of illegal drug use (including abuse of prescription painkillers) among technology workers and executives in high-pay, high-stress Silicon Valley. The Mercury News takes a look at the phenomenon; do the descriptions of freely passed cocaine, Red Bull as a gateway drug, and complacent managers match your own workplace experiences? From the Mercury News article: "There's this workaholism in the valley, where the ability to work on crash projects at tremendous rates of speed is almost a badge of honor," says Steve Albrecht, a San Diego consultant who teaches substance abuse awareness for Bay Area employers. "These workers stay up for days and days, and many of them gradually get into meth and coke to keep going. Red Bull and coffee only gets them so far." ... Drug abuse in the tech industry is growing against the backdrop of a national surge in heroin and prescription pain-pill abuse. Treatment specialists say the over-prescribing of painkillers, like the opioid hydrocodone, has spawned a new crop of addicts -- working professionals with college degrees, a description that fits many of the thousands of workers in corporate Silicon Valley. Increasingly, experts see painkillers as the gateway drug for addicts, and they are in abundance. "There are 1.4 million prescriptions ... in the Bay Area for hydrocodone," says Alice Gleghorn with the San Francisco Department of Public Health. "That's a lot of pills out there."
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Suddenly Visible: Illicit Drugs As Part of Silicon Valley Culture

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  • by 50000BTU_barbecue ( 588132 ) on Monday July 28, 2014 @08:13AM (#47548781) Journal

    is that now that rich white people have drug problems (ie, "real" people), maybe we can muster up some sympathy for other addicted people now?

    Nah, I'm dreaming.

  • by The Evil Atheist ( 2484676 ) on Monday July 28, 2014 @08:16AM (#47548797) Homepage
    Why should they get sympathy? No one told them they had to get addicted. In fact they're constantly warned by society not to take them.
  • by 50000BTU_barbecue ( 588132 ) on Monday July 28, 2014 @08:17AM (#47548801) Journal

    Well I guess that's enough then.

  • by src1138 ( 212903 ) on Monday July 28, 2014 @08:19AM (#47548811)

    The article goes on and on about "workaholism" fueling the need for drugs. My ass - the key story referenced is the one about Hayes getting offed by a hooker injecting a heroin overdose on his yacht. I don't feel a lot of workaholism in that story - ridiculously overpaid unscrupulous douchebag with too much time and money that has saddened and humiliated his family managed to have what looks like plenty of leisure time.

    Oh, and this shit is not new at all - been happening in this industry for decades. more noticeable now that a Googler has publicly disgraced himself.

    I feel for his family - what a piece of shit.

  • Abusing Ice... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by __aaclcg7560 ( 824291 ) on Monday July 28, 2014 @08:24AM (#47548829)
    I must be doing something wrong if the only thing I'm abusing is the ice pack on my sore back from sitting in front of a computer all day long.
  • by RichardJenkins ( 1362463 ) on Monday July 28, 2014 @08:29AM (#47548855)

    Where's the '-1 heartless' mod?

  • by argStyopa ( 232550 ) on Monday July 28, 2014 @08:33AM (#47548869) Journal

    "...illegal drug use (including abuse of prescription painkillers) among technology workers and executives in high-pay, high-stress Silicon Valley. ..."

    I know a shit-ton of people whose lives/work is JUST as stressful working their 3 jobs to make ends meet, but since it's not "high pay" that would probably mean they're not worth talking about, right? Certainly, we're less interesting in the 'why' of their drug abuse issues, because they can only afford cheap mood-altering chemistry like booze and cigs.

    Personally, I'd say the fact that Silicon Valley folks make stupid-large amounts of money means they have even LESS of an excuse to complain.

    Lots of people have more stress for much less self-inflicted reasons than pursuing of giant piles of cash.

  • Re:Red Bull (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kentrel ( 526003 ) on Monday July 28, 2014 @08:35AM (#47548879) Journal
    It's kind of a gateway drug, in that once you open the Red Bull gate you are entering a world where you pay triple for the equivalent energy of a banana, and the equivalent caffeine of a cup of coffee. It's kind of like a gateway to a world of dummies.
  • by smooth wombat ( 796938 ) on Monday July 28, 2014 @08:35AM (#47548881) Journal

    No wonder there's so much shitty software being thrown out. People are too stoned or drugged up to have any idea of what they're doing and as a result we get crap such as Windows 8 or the near-monthly Facebook "updates".

    But hey, drugs are cool and in no way should the deaths of Philip Seymour Hoffman, Peaches Geldoff, Cory Monteith, Heath Ledger, Dee Dee Ramone and a whole slew of other folks who felt being high was so great that they didn't care if they killed themselves in the process.

    Unfortunately we'll have to keep hearing about how poor [insert name] died, how they were a good person and blah, blah, blah.

    Fuck that. You think drugs are cool and being high is the thing to do, go for it. Just don't expect the rest of us to give a shit when you're found face down in your home.

  • Not suprised (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Alarash ( 746254 ) on Monday July 28, 2014 @08:36AM (#47548883)
    When I see the kind of shit my colleagues from Sunnyvale, who are on 80+ hours/week schedules, tend to release, I'm not surprised one bit. Of course I'm a lazy European socialist who only work 40-50 hours a week so what do I know.
  • by LainTouko ( 926420 ) on Monday July 28, 2014 @08:40AM (#47548907)

    How about the entirely unnecessary, bigoted coercion and force used against them by society to incarcerate them, which they wouldn't have to suffer if they were addicted to something mainstream, i.e. alcohol or tobacco?

    Having your life ruined merely for being different is something which should attract sympathy from anyone.

  • by Galaga88 ( 148206 ) on Monday July 28, 2014 @08:42AM (#47548911)

    I've known a lot of people with very poor time management and life skills, who lived in constant panic and crunch time as a result. Rather than managing the introspection required to address their personal failings that were leading to this, they'd just down as much Red Bull as they could under the misguided belief that it'd give them the energy to deal with all of their crap.

    So is it any surprise that they then turn to meth or other real drug to try and improve on the boost energy drinks may or may not have been giving them? (I have no idea if they work, they just made me short term wired and irritable.)

    Red Bull's not a gateway drug - but it's often co-morbid with personality types that are going to find their way into meth. Obviously the vast majority of people aren't using it as some kind of "gateway" to meth, or else we could call coffee a gateway drug too.

  • by 50000BTU_barbecue ( 588132 ) on Monday July 28, 2014 @08:43AM (#47548917) Journal

    Or the decision to be born into a hopeless environment with poor parents, all the while being kept that way by the drug and soda companies that profit hugely from your misery, like the Appalachians.

    But hey, it's not like we don't give them a chance, right?

  • by CaptainDork ( 3678879 ) on Monday July 28, 2014 @08:46AM (#47548929)

    There are those who would test all welfare recipients for drug abuse on the grounds that poor folks are users. Never mind that the data shows most people on welfare work and stuff.

    Those really looking to solve societies ills might do better to test the other end of the economic spectrum.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 28, 2014 @08:48AM (#47548941)

    You're a real armchair critic. What did this guy do to you that was so terrible that it warrants calling him a piece of shit? Live and let live. He was probably a better contributor to society than someone like you. Get out of your parents basement much?

  • Re:Red Bull (Score:5, Insightful)

    by OzPeter ( 195038 ) on Monday July 28, 2014 @08:48AM (#47548943)

    It's kind of a gateway drug, in that once you open the Red Bull gate you are entering a world where you pay triple for the equivalent energy of a banana, and the equivalent caffeine of a cup of coffee. It's kind of like a gateway to a world of dummies.

    Unless of course you shop for Red Bull at Costco vs buying your Double Mocha Lattes from Starbucks. In which case your Red Bull caffeine price will be less than a quarter than that of the Starbucks content.

  • by MRe_nl ( 306212 ) on Monday July 28, 2014 @08:57AM (#47548997)

    Winners do whatever the fuck they want, and succeed at not getting addicted.

  • by The Evil Atheist ( 2484676 ) on Monday July 28, 2014 @09:00AM (#47549013) Homepage
    Why did they "have" to start taking drugs in the first place? If you take drugs and get addicted, that's your responsibility. Not anyone else's.
  • by nine-times ( 778537 ) <> on Monday July 28, 2014 @09:06AM (#47549051) Homepage

    Yup, they're constantly warned by old people and movies alike, that only dumb, cool, sexy people with exciting lives do drugs. It's much safer to live like your boring suburban parents, who incidentally probably also do drugs-- at least alcohol, coffee, and antidepressants, if not marijuana and cocaine.

    I actually don't do any illegal drugs or prescription drugs. I'm just pointing out that our society sends some seriously mixed messages.

  • by polyphemus ( 473112 ) on Monday July 28, 2014 @09:12AM (#47549085)

    When I was in primary school, I was taught by all teachers to not take any drugs, smoke or drink excessively, even painkillers...

    Well, one problem is that the teachers lie through their teeth, demonizing marijuana along with heroin. But then you get to high school, and your friends are smoking weed, having fun, and they look fine. You've got older friends who have smoked pot on & off for years without visible consequences. So you try it and, sure enough, it's not the drug you were warned about by your teachers; it's actually fine, except for the consequences of getting caught. Your teachers lied to you, and now you know it.

    And the irony is that the most dangerous, most addictive, most popular drugs (alcohol and tobacco), well, these the ones your teachers tell you to use in "moderation." They imply that there's relative safety in these drugs, which is another lie.

    So how should you know about the dangers of addiction from heroin or methamphetamines, when your teachers are demonstrably lying to you about drugs?

  • by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Monday July 28, 2014 @09:21AM (#47549157)

    I have worked directly with CEO's in the past, when they are doing leisure they are still working. Their phone will go off all times of day.
    So he may be on a Yacht, he was probably still working there.

    The issue with drugs is it gives people an unfair advantage. At the cost of their long term health. If you are in an environment where everyone else is working 80+ hours per week, you need to in order to not look like a lazy employee dragging everyone down.

  • by ganjadude ( 952775 ) on Monday July 28, 2014 @09:23AM (#47549173) Homepage
    drugs are bad, and i will say that as a stoner. HOWEVER the war on drugs is even worse. We need to stop treating drug addiction as a criminal issue and treat it as a medical /mental health issue. If people who were addicts had access to clean, uncut drugs, one - they would stop dropping dead from ODs because they would be aware of how much they are taking, as well as not having to worry about what its cut with killing them. 2 they would be more likely to seek help as the stigma of being a criminal would be gone.

    all you have to do is look at Portugal. they did this 10 years ago and drug related issues have dropped dramatically.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 28, 2014 @09:24AM (#47549191)

    What did this guy do to you that was so terrible that it warrants calling him a piece of shit?

    How about what he did to his family? Either he was this massive workaholic--that the article tries to imply is a basis for the drug use--obviously too busy getting drugged and/or hookered up on his yacht to spend time with his family or he was just someone who was too busy getting drugged and/or hookered up on his yacht to spend time with his family. Sure, "Hayes' family requested that the media not approach the front door of their gated $4.2-million mansion on Laurent Street" and they have the yacht to sell. But he's fucking dead. He could have well enough left the industry and retired some time ago to spend more time with his family, but then how could he fuel his drug/hooker addictions?

    Live and let live. He was probably a better contributor to society than someone like you.

    Yep. If he's paid millions of dollars, then all his moral wrongs can be just ignored in the name of being rich. And of course he deserved it, as clearly there's a hundred million jobs in the US that pay millions as a salary so it's just a matter of working hard and nothing to do with a severe selection bias that limits a handful of people who, no matter how hard they work, are paid disproportionately most heavily as a byproduct of luck. And it's all just to feed the most important things in his life--not his five kids or his wife which are relatively cheap, but his drugs, his hooker, and his yacht. Guess what got him killed?

    Get out of your parents basement much?

    Sure. To work. And since plenty of people work in areas with such high property rates, actually getting out of one's "parents basement" is a very uphill climb. Of course, in the old days it was considered pretty standard to live with family for a good bit of one's life because (1) family was important and (2) there wasn't some inherent shame in living with family. But, no, we got to have everyone be self-made millionaires who move out on their own. But since in cities there is so much more value out of commercial vs residential zones, be prepared to live in a shoe box apartment. Or if you live in the suburbs to pay through the nose and burn through plenty of unneeded gas because the public transport system wasn't built out property when the suburbs came in and those in the suburbs now don't want to have to be with the "common" people on the trains or otherwise see their area be devalued in any way or pay more in taxes to subsidize any sort of public system.

    Because to make it, you have to have your own house with your own lawn and your own car. And that ridiculously expensive house can't go down in value or your "investment" just lost hundreds of thousands dollars. But damn the city for all those property taxes!

    PS - Yea, over the top. And I agree the GP was to some extent, too. But the way you quickly fawn over the guy as "better" because of his "[contribution] to society"? The biggest way any father can contribute to society is by being a good role model for his children and helping to mold them to be good members of society. I don't think his death on a yacht helps in that regard.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Monday July 28, 2014 @09:26AM (#47549207) Journal
    I suspect that this conversation is a lost cause; but it's worth pointing out that that is one of the reasons why public health types get twitchy about prescription opiates.

    Among those otherwise without access or interest in fairly serious drugs, an attempt at pain management following injury or illness can be a compelling introduction to the exciting world of stuff that's pretty close to heroin with better quality control. Not everyone develops a habit, of course; but it's an introduction that can happen regardless of circumstance.
  • by Scottingham ( 2036128 ) on Monday July 28, 2014 @09:58AM (#47549477)
    Exactly. I think Evil Atheist's message basically boils down to: 'You made a mistake, now fuck off and die. Scum.'

    Believe it or not, some people choose to see addicts as people who have made a mistake (at least one!) but are still human and deserve respect.

    These sort of arguments along the lines of 'don't get addicted in the first place derp!' sound just like the anti-abortion wackos who say 'don't get pregnant in the first place derrp!' Those arguments fall on their face when you have a baby in your hands, or an addict in the ally. Or you know...fuck em. Right?
  • by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Monday July 28, 2014 @10:09AM (#47549575)

    Why did they "have" to start taking drugs in the first place?

    Depends on the situation. Some people take them out of pure pleasure seeking. Others get addicted to chemicals like opiates as a result of circumstances well beyond their control like surgeries.

    Furthermore just because someone made a bad decision doesn't mean we simply abandon them. Maybe you are the one person who has never made a bad choice in life but I doubt it. Sometimes people make bad choices and a civilized society tries to a reasonable degree to help them through it. We're going to pay for it one way or another anyway so why not do the humane thing and help those who are willing to be helped?

    If you take drugs and get addicted, that's your responsibility. Not anyone else's.

    Think so? I can introduce you to some former surgery patients and war veterans among others who were introduced to opiates to control pain by their physicians for very real pain problems and as a result were unable to avoid addiction. I can point you to some suffering from PTSD (not their fault) who are trying to find some way to cope who sometimes turn to chemicals because they don't understand what has happened and it is the only relief they can find before they understand what has happened. Some addictions are not the solely the fault of the person taking the drugs.

    It's easy and wrong to paint every drug addict with the same broad brush. Some, like the sort you are thinking of, are simply idiots seeking pleasure or escape. If you are snorting cocaine on your yacht for fun, yeah that's on you and if you die I'm not going to cry a river for you. Others are decent people trying to cope with a real problem not of their own making. You really think that a wounded veteran who gets unintentionally addicted to opiates while trying to control pain is solely responsible for his situation? If so you are a very cold hearted person.

  • by Zero__Kelvin ( 151819 ) on Monday July 28, 2014 @10:15AM (#47549601) Homepage
    Hey, here's an idea! Have at least some clue what you are talking about, and then get back to us. The entire community of psychologists and psychyatrists will tell you you are wrong, and exactly why, but you can rest at night feeling like you are superior when you have no clue what you are talking about. After all, some other people who have no expertise in, or experience with the matter, have modded you "insightful."

    Just one of many things you obviously haven't considered. Most people have done drugs, even if that drug is Alcohol. Only a subset of those people are addicts (including addicts who are addicted to Alcohol, ie. "Alcoholics".) If you think that responsibility or lack thereof is the deciding fator, then you really are a moron.
  • by jythie ( 914043 ) on Monday July 28, 2014 @10:25AM (#47549695)
    Whether you agree with legalization or not, one of the problems the anti-drug movement has slammed into is unfortunately they do lie quite a bit, and when people compare what their teachers say to actual examples they can see in their lives, the truth the programs is going over becomes suspect. The programs and teachers mean well, but they use a bit too much exaggeration and selective examples to be effective.
  • Re:Ban caffeine! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bunratty ( 545641 ) on Monday July 28, 2014 @10:28AM (#47549713)
    The whole notion of a "gateway drug" is the misconception that correlation implies causation. Just because someone used caffiene, nicotine, alcohol, or marijuana before moving on to more powerful drugs does not mean that they caused the use of more powerful drugs. You could ban all of those drugs, and some other drug would become the first one users try.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 28, 2014 @10:34AM (#47549767)

    Therre are billions who routinely drink water and belong to either of those classes. Neither of you guys have managed to demonstrate one thing or other. I'm not sure if I should call it a fallacy at all because I'm not sure if you are even trying to argue. It's just empty talking.

  • by bunratty ( 545641 ) on Monday July 28, 2014 @10:35AM (#47549773)
    I was taught that using marijuana leads to heroin use. When you see many people around you that do not adhere to that model, you start disregarding the information as BS. After realizing how ridiculous some of the information presented about drugs was, I disregarded it all, so it actually backfired. The purpose of drug programs should be to inform students of the real consequences of drug use, not to make up horror stories to scare students.
  • by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Monday July 28, 2014 @10:58AM (#47549959) Homepage

    Not everybody works in marketing.

  • by Thiez ( 1281866 ) on Monday July 28, 2014 @11:25AM (#47550185)

    Someone who deliberately cuts off their own legs with a chainsaw don't get sympathy. So why should addicts?

    I imagine someone who would do that on purpose must be suffering from some serious mental problem, or must have been blackmailed or under some kind of duress. Certainly they do deserve sympathy and help.

  • by captjc ( 453680 ) on Monday July 28, 2014 @12:17PM (#47550619)

    Are you kidding, a significant portion of those people are under the delusion that if they work their ass off now, they will be start-up billionaires by the time they're 30. And guess what, there are plenty of companies that are more than happy to indulge their fantasy. Only, after five-to-ten years of that crap do they start to realize that except for a very small few, it is a pipe dream. Of course, by that time they are considered too old for the industry and are replaced by another delusional young go-getter and the cycle repeats. They don't want a unions or regulations, or anything that might jeopardize their chance at being the next software / web billionaire. The ironic thing is that while this is one of the most liberal areas in the country, the entire place is like an Ayn Rand dystopia.

Lavish spending can be disastrous. Don't buy any lavishes for a while.