Addiction is a chronic medical condition that involves certain interactions among brain circuits. Genetics and one’s living environment also play a large role in determining whether someone becomes addicted to a certain substance. For instance, if an individual resides in an area with a high intake rate of cocaine or cannabis, then there is a larger chance that the person will be addicted to the substance.1
Individuals diagnosed with substance use disorder (SUD) often engage in compulsive behaviors and continue to use substances despite harmful consequences. Addiction can be found in even the most surprising industries in the world, with one of the most prominent being the tech industry. Read on to learn about addiction in the technology industry.
Information technology, or tech companies as they are often called, are made up of highly skilled professionals. Due to the intense pressure from work that these professionals face, they are often prone to the abuse of various substances such as cocaine and Xanax. This pressure could arise because of the in-house competition between co-workers, the excessive demand for results by their superiors or their clients, and the high demand for tech-related services.
A mix of stress, burnout, and the demands of the job can drive employees in the tech industry towards substance abuse. These factors coupled with the long hours and overtime contribute greatly to these employees’ stress, and they may begin to seek various coping mechanisms such as an excessive intake of harmful substances. This aspect brings us to the question of whether tech companies face higher addiction rates.
The rate of their addiction is still surprisingly high compared to other industries. Statistics show that 9.8% out of the people in the Tech industry struggle with substance abuse.2 In addition, 8.64% of information technology professionals have been identified as problem drinkers and almost 12% of IT industry workers have admitted to using illegal substances.3
These statistics change, however, when it comes to prescription drugs. The statistics for the entire American working class for prescription drugs is more than 16%, but the use of painkillers in tech companies is higher than this overall average. Approximately 19.53% of tech professionals (which equals nearly one in five information technology specialists) abuse opioids such as Xanax or OxyContin.
The substances that tech industry employees often use include alcohol, prescription drugs such as Xanax and Adderall, and street drugs such as cocaine.
Alcohol: Alcohol is an easily accessible substance and can be acquired legally. This is the major reason why most tech workers form an addiction to this substance. Further, individuals who undergo treatment for alcohol addiction can easily relapse.
Prescription Drugs: Prescription drugs can also be relatively easy to acquire and abuse. Prescription drugs can be divided into opioids, depressants, and stimulants.
There are numerous examples of top tech companies (commonly referred to as Big Tech companies) with leaders who have faced addiction. Audrey Gelman, who was the CEO of The Wing, is a classic example. She was diagnosed with an alcohol use disorder, and although there is not much information on her treatment, she is open about her struggle on social media. Gelman has been sober for over three years. Another example is Steve Madden. Steve Madden, founder and design chief of a multibillion-dollar eponymous shoe brand, also struggled with addiction throughout his lifetime but has sought treatment for it.5
Some of the tech industry’s most well-known public tragedies in addiction involve Google employee Forrest Timothy Hayes as well as Zappos employee Tony Hsieh. Forrest Timothy Hayes was a former Google executive who passed away from a heroin.
Various addiction treatments are available to individuals struggling with substance use disorder. Some treatment centers specialize in dual diagnosis, meaning that these centers can treat the underlying mental issues, such as anxiety and depression, that contribute to a patient’s addiction. These treatments can take the forms of alcohol rehab, opioid rehab, stimulant rehab, or executive rehab.
However, before any form of treatment can take place, detox must be carried out. Detox is the process of ridding the body of the harmful substance before beginning treatment. It is better to engage in the full hospitalization program when carrying out detox to prevent the patient from being tempted to use the substance again.
These tech companies must aid employees who may be struggling with addiction or take preventive measures. Employees addicted to substances such as Adderall, cocaine, or alcohol may be trying to cope with burnout from overworking, stress, and the high demands from their job. Tech companies can set up insurance systems to cover drug addiction treatment and put in measures to create a healthy working environment.