Addiction Education: The underground subculture of Google executives

Cali Estes featured for her addiction work with the underground subculture of Google executives.  Read on and enjoy!

 

Use of illicit drugs becomes part of Silicon Valley’s work culture

For Google executive Forrest Timothy Hayes, heroin was the killer app.

 From the way the Santa Cruz cops talk about it, the security camera video that captured a reputed high-price call girl injecting the 51-year-old tech veteran with a fatal dose of the drug aboard his yacht in Santa Cruz was surely horrific. But it was particularly chilling for another reason:
 While the seven-minute-long death scene drew a final curtain on the life of the father of five, it raised another on a dark and largely hidden side of Silicon Valley in 2014. With a booming startup culture cranked up by fiercely competitive VPs and adrenaline-driven coders, and a tendency for stressed-out managers to look the other way, illicit drugs and black-market painkillers have become part of the landscape here in the world’s frothy fountain of tech.
Illicit drugs such as cocaine, seen above, and black-market painkillers have become part of the landscape among Silicon Valley. (Photo by Acid Pix/Flickr
Illicit drugs such as cocaine, seen above, and black-market painkillers have become part of the landscape among Silicon Valley. (Photo by Acid Pix/Flickr Creative Commons)
 “I’ve had them from Apple, from Twitter, from Facebook, from Google, from Yahoo, and it’s bad out there,” says Cali Estes, a Miami-based addictions coach who has helped 200 tech workers — many of them high-level executives — struggling with everything from cocaine and heroin to painkillers like oxycodone and stimulants like Adderall, a prescription drug used to treat attention-deficit disorders.
 “And it’s a lot worse than what people think because it’s all covered up so well,” says Estes. “If it gets out that a company’s employees are doing drugs, it paints a horrible picture.”

 


 While precise numbers of techie drug users are impossible to come by, most treatment and addiction experts see evidence of a growing problem borne of a potent cocktail: newly minted wealth, intense competition between companies and among their workers, the deadline pressure of one product launch after another and a robust regional black-market drug pipeline.
 “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.”

Furthering the problem, many tech companies do little or no drug testing because, as Albrecht put it, “they want the results, but they don’t want to know how their employees got the results.”

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.”

Patients prescribed opioids for back pain or injuries can easily become addicted; others get opioids on a thriving black market, or easier yet, from the medicine cabinet of a family member or friend.

Dr. Norman Wall, a Calistoga detox specialist who works with employees from iconic companies such as Apple, says the progression up the addiction ladder is predictable: uppers like Adderall to keep up with production demands and 12-hour days, then downers like oxycodone, another powerful opioid, to take the edge off when you get home. “It’s not a big leap to get hooked on oxycodone,” he says.

Dave Marlon, president of Nevada-based treatment center Solutions Recovery Inc., which has treated tech workers from across the country, says, “Some people say they need to take opioids in the morning just to function and go to work. It’s like drowning and you need air.”

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