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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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  • LSD and Intel (Score:4, Interesting)

    by scum-e-bag ( 211846 ) on Monday July 28, 2014 @08:22AM (#47548821) Homepage Journal

    Internet folklore from the days of Usenet had stories of Intels R&D divisions using LSD to creatively solve problems. It was never talked about, except when the compulsory workplace drug testers came to find their walkway blocked by higher powers when entering the R&D division.

    Google has removed references from its search results.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 28, 2014 @08:33AM (#47548871)

    "Drug misuse is not a disease, it is a decision, like the decision to step out in front of a moving car." --Philip K. Dick

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 28, 2014 @08:36AM (#47548887)

    A couple of years back I broke my leg. I was given a prescription of hydrocodone and being afraid of them due to all of the addiction stories and the fact that, for some odd reason, my leg never really hurt that badly, I did not take them but I did keep them around. A few months after recovery I was working on my gait and felt something pop in my lower back. The next day I was in severe pain (it was at least 11) and I was told it was a pinched nerve.

    I broke down and took one of the hydrocodones and about 20 minutes later, through the slightly lightheaded haze, I experienced some of the most intense, intense hours of extreme focus. I dedicated my time and wrung out tomes of code. It just flowed forth, from the mind of the keys to the screen. After about four hours, it would subside and I'd look back at my work in astonishment. The code was really, really good. I remember thinking to myself "I wrote that!?"

    I continued for the next two weeks while my pinched nerve slowly became less inflamed and everything returned to normal. I had about two weeks worth of hydrocodone left in the bottle. But you know what? I had absolutely no desire to take them once the pain in my back was gone. I had no withdrawl symptoms, no shakes, fevers, or anything else. I also did not have a dimwit Valley manager breathing down my neck to finish a project so they could get their next bonus at my expense.

    Having spent time working in the Valley, I have little desire to return, if any. Between the terrible drivers, rude hipsters, astronomical real estate prices, strange inexplicable odors, ridiculous grocery prices, PG&E, Comcast, the diseased hot-zone known as Fry's, wall to wall people who are completely oblivious to their surroundings and stand right in the goddamn middle of every aisle in every store ... living in the Valley is absolutely madness! If you live there and like it, you're either nucking futs or you've never experienced normalcy.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 28, 2014 @08:42AM (#47548913)

    Drugs are a geat way to network.

    Line up a guy with some coke, next thing you know, you got a job.

    It's done in other places too and with other substances. How many of guys got a job at a local bar during happy hour? Or get the inside scoop on a new position?

    I mean the folks who think skills are all the matters or even are the most important thing are fooling themselves.

    It''s all about who you know. Obviously, you can't be a fuck up because they'll know you're one. But if you're good enough and save them the whole hiring process, you're in.

  • not worth it (Score:3, Interesting)

    by fightermagethief ( 3645291 ) on Monday July 28, 2014 @09:22AM (#47549167)

    To anyone considering the use of meth or adderall or whatever, the quality of any creative project will suffer for it. I find it easy to not get addicted, but there is no upside whatsoever to speed use. You will feel like you are reaching new levels of productivity or alertness, but all carefully measured reason goes out the window. You will wake up after regaining sobriety, perhaps years later, and be severely disappointed with any work that you did under the influence. If you have to absolutely stay awake, like maybe a nightmare on elm street scenario, if you can do ONE single key bump of coke it may be okay. DO NOT try and continue the 'high'. Source: I did meth once for like 5 years.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 28, 2014 @09:30AM (#47549247)

    Rather than managing the introspection required to address their personal failings that were leading to this...

    Ah, yes! All it takes is to sit down and think about it because everyone is brought up the same way and with the same values.

    See, I grew up in an extremely angry alcoholic household. I didn't know it growing up because as far as I was concerned (I was a child after all!) that was normal. As I grew up, gradually I started to see a pattern but was clueless as to exactly what was the problem - I pretty much thought that people sucked. Drinking a bottle of wine at a time was normal. Screaming at someone to be "assertive" was normal.

    It was when I sought CBT (a lots of money on it because insurance didnt cover it and I didn't want the MIB and subseqquently the insurance companies to know I had psych problems - pre Obamacare that was a REAL problem).

    After 10 years and over $60K, I got a bit better. Money well spent because I was on a track to stick a .45 up someone's ass and end up in jail.

    I am still a bit "odd" as some of my aquaintances have told me, but I've decided that social odd is OK.

    In short, many screwed up people don't realize it because it's normal for them.

    And I'd like to point out, our consumerist culture and valuing this "live to work" attitude is pretty fucked up. This measuring people by the size of their income is incredibly shallow.

    And looking at someone else's life with 20/20 hindsight is incredibly judgementmental and compassionless. Which I find extremely hypocritical of social conservatives who profess to be "Christian" when that whole religion is about caring, compassion, and forgiveness - at least when you tear off the Old Testament from the Bible.

    As far as me, I follow the 8 fold path in Buddhism when I don't have a clue about how to act or treat people.

    Never the less, if you have truly lived you will make mistakes that at the time seem prefectly reasonable and looking back, someone will say, "How could you have been so stupid!?"

    I on the other hand, will just nod my head in empathy and I might ask if there's is something I can do to help because I have probably been there too.

  • by nimbius ( 983462 ) on Monday July 28, 2014 @09:51AM (#47549443) Homepage
    how do we get from prescription pain meds, to heroin abuse, and then back to Silicon Valley? this article is incoherent.

    the pain medication abuse is largely impacting armed service veterans with chronic and debilitating ailments requiring decades of supportive therapy (including PTSD.) its increase is commensurate to the increase in injured veterans returning from 2 recent foreign wars and proportional to the level of service received in a privatized healthcare system. its easier to say "maybe you should just take pills forever" instead of prescribing cost-prohibitive specialists to diagnose and effectively treat the problem. Pills are also much more easily attainable than psychological and psychiatric counseling as every war we enter, ends with the military pretending PTSD and brain damage are new and exotic injuries never before seen.

    The heroin epidemic is a byproduct of the housing collapse and unemployment, but arguably more tangible this time because we're not just incarcerating minorities. when you take everything away from someone, render them homeless and destitute without healthcare or shelter, and spend your evenings in the news media demonizing them then you arent permitted to question where or why this "heroin epidemic" came from. Its from the same culture that thinks ER visits are equivalent to healthcare for the destitute.

    the silicon valley "drug culture" exposes what criminal justice and law enforcement have known for decades. narcotic use in low income and poor communities mirrors that of affluent communities. Arrest, sentencing and incarceration however are far easier if your target can only afford the public defender and never completed highschool. What San Jose and Silicon Valley are dealing with now is an epidemic of affluent drug convictions that will not just roll-over with an 11 year plea bargain and pound rocks at rikers to stuff the city treasury. These drug users have families, friends, participate in their community, and most importantly can afford to litigate disproportionate sentencing in order to force municipalities to retarget their efforts in a more fruitful direction. Namely, treatment, rehabilitation, education, and reform of existing drug laws.
  • by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Monday July 28, 2014 @10:16AM (#47549611)
    I am a bit unusual in NOT having started drinking coffee until almost the age of 40, and had the same experience of hyper-concentration the first time! Now I can hardly feel anything, if at all.

    I think growing tolerance to drugs is practically universal. I've known several people who started Prozac etc. and told me, "wow, so THIS is what I've been missing! Life is so great!" But fast forward a year, and they don't seem that much happier. Yet they still have a costly prescription for the rest of their lives.

  • by Ol Olsoc ( 1175323 ) on Monday July 28, 2014 @10:21AM (#47549649)

    Do I drink coffee? No, actually. At least, not regularly enough to be called a "coffee drinker". I certainly don't drink it for the caffeine - I'm not sure I've ever felt the effects of it. I drink it for the bitter-sweet-milk taste. Otherwise, I mostly drink tea.

    What's it like having to live among the Visigoths? You probably should tine down your message of superiority, For there but for the grace of (insert favorite deity here) go you.

    The point here is not how great you are, and how if only these weak minded individuals would have listened to their teachers all would be well in. The point of the story is that this is a different story.

    Your teachers probably did not sell the idea of the suburban living, family person, with a good paying job and college education as the drug addict.

    They probably sold you the bleary eyed guy living under a bridge, stealing to support his addiction, or the once beautiful woman in an alley with her fubber hose, having turned to prostitution to support her heroin habit, or at best, just a stoner, who has permanently addled his brain by taking a hit off that kickass doob some cute girl handed him saying "Come on - everyone's doing it - don't you want to do it?

    No, this is an entirely different group. What is worse, by their addiction, they are serving the stockholders. If you have 10 people working 80 plus hours a week, you don't have to pay 25 people to work 40 (remember the inefficiencies - it doesn't scale 1 for 1). This is not your teacher's and societies addicts.

    Having worked my share of 24+ hour days, and having my full complement of hours in by Tuesday morning, I can imagine a lot of people becoming addicted to something that keeps them going, then getting involved in downers to bring them back. I never did, managing to get by on coffee abuse only. But I understand very well the pressure. You have the stockholders, the family, and the corporation behind you, demanding anything to increase your productivity.

    So yes, I fully understand exactly how this can happen. I avoided it because I understand there is a price to pay, an inevitable crash and burn if you try to do this on a extended basis.

    I just don't have your smug attitude about it.

    Only perfect people are allowed to be smug. And smugness is a sign of imperfection.

  • by ganjadude ( 952775 ) on Monday July 28, 2014 @02:10PM (#47551445) Homepage
    clearly you have not looked into portugal. I highly recommend you do, theres a 10 year long study thats still ongoing and the results are staggering.

Only God can make random selections.