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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 Anonymous Coward

    Insert coin

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MRe_nl ( 306212 )

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

  • by TeknoHog ( 164938 ) on Monday July 28, 2014 @08:12AM (#47548773) Homepage Journal
    It's a gateway drug!
  • 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.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      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 RichardJenkins ( 1362463 ) on Monday July 28, 2014 @08:29AM (#47548855)

        Where's the '-1 heartless' mod?

      • 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.

        • Note you're the one bring the war on drugs into this. I'm merely addressing the CHOICE people make to start taking drugs in the first place. Why? Taking drugs is not "being different". You're not born taking drugs. In fact you have to go out of your way to do those things. Taking those substances is one of the very few things you are not forced to do in advanced society. Even if there were no war on drugs, people still get addicted and ruin their lives, or die, for something completely unnecessary.
      • 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.

        • Do teachers tell their students to take drugs? That's a pretty fucking clear message. They even tell kids not to believe in movies. Even as a kid I knew to listen to them. What excuse do other kids have? That they didn't want to be teacher's pets?

          My parents never did drugs. My father escaped communism in China and my mother's family were poor. They buckled down and got out of poverty and avoided all addictions, even gambling. It isn't hard to not do something that isn't necessary.
          • Fine, you're a shining example and the rest of us larvae are not worthy, but please note you are living on a planet with 7 billion people on it; chances are they are not all as amazing as you. Hell, we can't even build integrated circuits with the latest and greatest technology that well.

            • 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?
        • Did you seriously just compare prozac to alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine????
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      "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 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?

        • The people working at silicon valley don't sound poor to me.
          • Um, who said otherwise? Are you intentionally misunderstanding or was I too quick?

            • By bringing up economic status in the comments for an article about Silicon Valley workers, YOU. Otherwise, your comment was irrelevant. One or the other. Incorrect or irrelevant.
              • You always spend your time responding to incorrect or irrelevant posts, or do you just like to read yourself type?

                PS: The summary itself brought up economic status, so I don't know what your problem is. Perhaps you should go back to your Mensa meeting and fellate people on your own level instead of wasting your precious, perfect time on grubs like us?

      • by h5inz ( 1284916 )
        A guy has written a couple of nice stories. Oh lets quote him on a medical science issue, he can't be wrong!
    • "The only good thing 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?"

      Hey, it worked for Rush Limbaugh! Oh wait ...

  • 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.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      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 t

    • by pla ( 258480 )
      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.

      I agree with you about the workaholism angle as complete BS, but I think you go too far with the second half of your statement.

      Geeks in general seem to seek out novelty, which as an underlying character trait, makes us good at what we do. Seeking altered states of consciousness, in
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by jellomizer ( 103300 )

      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.

  • 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.

  • 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.
  • There are "solutions" that become problems in and of themselves. Workaholism is in the same category... It solves a problem for a while and then becomes a problem itself.

  • "Looks like I picked the wrong week to give up amphetamines."

  • illegal drug use (including abuse of prescription painkillers)

    Is it illegal to abuse legally obtained drugs?

  • 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.

  • 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.

    • 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.
  • 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 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 EzInKy ( 115248 )

      Just an FYI, any one who gives an 11 when asked what their pain level on a scale of 0-10 is pretty much automatically labelled a drug seeker. 10 means the pain is the absolute most you could ever imagine experiencing. Think being disembowelled while being roasted on a spit here and the marinate being tincture of iodine. There simply is no higher score than a ten by non-druggies.

    • by swb ( 14022 ) on Monday July 28, 2014 @09:38AM (#47549319)

      I had a bad accident which resulted in 2/3rds of my left ring finger getting amputated and the end joint on my middle finger getting fused. Needless to say, I was on a lot of painkillers. 40 mg oxycodone per day for about two weeks, which gradually tapered down to about 5 mg as needed, which amounted to about 5-10 mg a day for maybe 4 months.

      Like you, I got kind of tired of the large doses after a while. They made me feel kind of sluggish and lazy. Even when I had tapered down I really kind of resisted taking a second 5 mg dose in one day unless I felt there was a compelling need. It seemed to be more bad side effects and less good value.

      I eventually ended up mostly taking a single dose in the morning; for some reason my hand hurt worst in the morning and even if it didn't, not dosing in the morning usually meant my hand hurt worse than normal by mid-day and it was harder to recover (more meds, more time) once it got painful.

      Like you, that single dose in the morning seemed to have a kind of calming focus. I'm also a huge coffee drinker, so I would imagine the combination was the key. But I never really wanted another dose during the day. I couldn't recapture the effect from the morning. I just got sluggish.

      Unlike you I took them all, probably past where I had a hard-core need, but when they were gone -- zero sense of any withdrawal symptoms. Nothing. My sense is that addiction requires big doses that keep your level up nearly 24 hours a day for weeks. Tiny doses, like 5 mg, once a day probably just can't produce a true physical dependence because you go "dry" after about 8 hours.

      I'd probably keep taking them if I had them, but only once a day, and that may be the difference. People who get addicted don't have that "it doesn't work so well in the afternoon" effect; for them it works every time and they really notice it when it stops. I just had no interest in more, it worked against me.

  • They're not an epidemic solely in Silicon Valley, and although I get

    that location makes it a nerd story, you can tell this same sad tale in nearly any modestly sized City.

    An interesting question is, "Are the abused prescription drugs more widely available to top earners?"

    The oxys and hydrocodone are super-addictive, and may (to their detriment)

    be more widely available by prescription to folks who seem to have their act together... physician's discretion, if you will.

  • Timothy Hayes died from an heroïne overdose, likely injected by an escort. Its murder first degree and not an executive that was hooked or had any narcotic issue. If I were his family, I'd rather be very angry about anyone linking his death to a suddent increase of narcotic abuse in the IT world...
    • by SpzToid ( 869795 )

      It could've been an accidental overdose, although reports from The Prosecution regarding the video evidence seem to indicate the alleged and easily identifiable tattooed hooker was rather cold-hearted given the accident/situation, and more than willing to walk away from all of it entirely, with the curtains drawn once it all went down, perhaps even with some sense of thrill given her past praise published on the internet for the TV series known as 'Dexter'. She could have looked around for a phone somewhere

  • 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.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      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

  • 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.

  • As soon as drug usage is mentioned in a given area of commerce, the federosaurus gets to suspend the Constitution. Silicon Valley is being seen as a place of wealth right now, and invoking the drug war gives authorities the right to steal however much of it they want without due process.
    And no, developers don't shoot heroin to get projects completed faster.

  • Silicon Valley problem? No... it's an American problem. Is there anyone here that doesn't know someone with an addiction problem? It's part of our culture. Who we are, and what we have is never good enough. There's always someone better on TV, the movies, the internet, and why aren't our bodies like that? Why am I not that calm? Why am I not that strong? Why can't I deal with stress that well? We're spoon fed lies via a screen and then find there is no natural way for us to meet our fictitious ambitions so

  • 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.

  • All first responders from cops to firefighters all carry Naloxone for heroin overdose.

    Which is proactive in my opinion. But the problem exists even here. We've had a number of heroin overdoses the last few years that resulted in death. Now that there's a treatment available people no longer need to fear the first responders so much.
  • by swb ( 14022 ) on Monday July 28, 2014 @09:47AM (#47549397)

    Doesn't the cultural cycle of drugs always go from speed to heroin? Speed provides the energy and "go" but the come down is rough, so there's a turn towards tranquilizers and opioids as a way to manage the come-down.

    I've never been on that merry-go-round, but the older I get the more sleep deprivation hurts, physically. It's not just being tired, my body aches, almost like the early stages of strep throat or the flu. A little opioid would really take the edge off that.

    It's not hard to see adderall and vicodin/oxycodone being a popular combination in Silicon Valley.

  • 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.
  • I just skimmed half of the 300 or so comments, and have yet to see anyone consider the point of the article, rather than whether they said "Red Bull is a gateway drug".

    Y'know, the real point: upper managers, under the heel of venture capital who want 1000% ROI next week, giving people insanely impossible deadlines, and then getting them (under threat of being fired) to work far beyond any reason when it's not a disaster zone (say, a flood) or the middle of a war zone.

    And if you work like that, with not a trace of a life, and think you're Important, there's another word for you: sucker. I'd even add stupid sucker.

                    mark, who swore he'd never do that again after breaking 70 hours in one week in the mid-nineties
                                                  (and did I mention the pagers?)*

    * Admittedly, not crazy enough to do what one of the young what-was-then-Anderson Consulting guys did: 1 week, 119 hours....

  • by azav ( 469988 ) on Monday July 28, 2014 @02:14PM (#47551475) Homepage Journal
    Someone wasn't there during the mid '90s dot com boom. It was simply part of life during those days.
  • by spiritplumber ( 1944222 ) on Tuesday July 29, 2014 @08:46PM (#47562357) Homepage
    which is why I left. Now I live 70 miles away, make about half as much, and work 15 hours a week instead of 60. So long suckers!

All laws are simulations of reality. -- John C. Lilly