The United States is facing a drug problem on a national scale. Over the past several years, drug overdoses have become the leading cause of accidental deaths in the country, overtaking motor vehicle crashes’ long-held number one spot. The reasons for this epidemic are many, and while prescription opioid painkillers and heroin are most often responsible for these overdoses, there are several other illicit substances responsible for the nationwide rise in drug-related deaths.
Drug Abuse in Silicon Valley
California’s Silicon Valley (including San Mateo County and Santa Clara County) takes up a small portion of the San Francisco Bay Area, but the community is home to some of the most profitable companies in American history. Despite the presence of key American innovators like Google, Facebook, Amazon and Twitter, Silicon Valley has slowly but surely gained a reputation as a hotbed of drug use and abuse.
Work Culture Driving Drug and Alcohol Dependence
Silicon Valley employees often face an unparalleled level of stress and pressure in their work environment compared to other industries across the country. The tech giants headquartered in Silicon Valley demand ceaseless innovation and energy from their workers to keep pace with the fast-paced nature of modern information and technology. Many employees find it difficult to cope with the intense stress imposed upon them by their high-profile employers.
Drug dependence often begins as a form of stress-relief or a temporary escape from reality. Even worse, many users form dangerous habits due to a desire to increase their performance on the job. One of the most glaring examples of this trend nationally is the string of professional athletes caught doping with various steroids to gain a competitive edge. In Silicon Valley, many drug users’ habits start with a desire to outperform their peers and bring the desired level of energy to their work. Over time, this type of substance abuse can easily evolve into a dangerous, fatal dependency.
Drugs such as caffeine, nootropics, and Adderall are readily available in Silicon Valley. Unfortunately, even tech professionals who know the risks of dependency may continue to abuse these substances to contend with exceedingly long work weeks and a high-pressure work environments.
Abuse Common in Silicon Valley Party Scene
In addition to dealing with extraordinarily stressful work days, many Silicon Valley pros do not get adequate rest after a long work day. Instead, professionals young and old opt to blow off steam by partying hard. Drug dependency in Silicon Valley usually takes the form of stimulants taken to keep pace with work and partying, and depressants such as opioids used to stay calm.
Substances like methamphetamine, cocaine, and LSD (also known as “acid”) are among the most easily accessible party drugs, and are especially popular with the very young innovators that most of the big tech companies in Silicon Valley target to staff their enterprises. Most of these companies are incredibly profitable. Unfortunately, young people under extreme stress at work while earning healthy paychecks are vulnerable to taking their celebrations too far and delving into substance abuse.
Opioid Epidemic in Silicon Valley
While Silicon Valley contends with widespread use of alcohol, stimulants, and psychotropic party drugs, opioids are still the main cause for concern among the nation’s leading law enforcement and drug agencies. Over the past decade, the number of opioid-related overdose deaths has increased dramatically, with several factors perpetuating this trend.
Widespread Access to Opioids
Shockingly, the number of opioid overdose deaths in recent years has risen at nearly an identical rate to the increase in prescription opioid sales over the same period. This indicates several worrisome trends. First, doctors may be over-prescribing these medications. Opioids are powerful painkillers and effectively treat several types of pain, from chronic conditions to pain caused by injuries and post-surgical care. Addiction to opioids can occur through abuse, or even from long-term legitimate use of the medications for pain management.
Second, doctors may be falling short in their responsibility to inform patients about the dependency risks associated with their medications. Opioids can become habit-forming very quickly, so doctors must continuously communicate with patients about the risks of overdosing and dependency. Many patients develop addictions because they assume their prescription drugs are safe because their doctor prescribed them. This misinformation can lead directly to prescription opioid abuse and subsequently contribute to long-term heroin use.
Doctor Shopping Drives Prescription Drug Abuse
When a patient with an opioid prescription runs out of refills, he or she may then attempt to secure additional prescriptions from other doctors. Likewise, drug dealers regularly leverage this strategy to secure a stockpile of prescription opioid pills for sale on the black market. The individual visits several doctors in an effort to obtain several prescriptions, then visits a different pharmacy to have each one filled.
Doctor shopping may enable some individuals to maintain their supply for months at a time, but eventually substance abusers will develop a tolerance for, or lose access to their prescription drugs. When a user loses access to prescription drugs, they may attempt to stave off the withdrawals by turning to heroin as an alternative. It’s important to note that the price of prescription pills for illegal sale is typically very expensive – sometimes as much as $10 or $20 per pill. The low cost of heroin — compared to black market opioid pills — drives many to turn to heroin to keep withdrawals at-bay.
Heroin Is a Cheap Alternative RX Painkillers
Once prescriptions are no longer viable, opioid addicts will often resort to heroin to curb their withdrawal symptoms. However, this escalation inevitably forces the individual to secure larger and larger doses. Inconsistencies in heroin batch strengths – coupled with the dangers of heroin laced with powerful synthetic opioids such as fentanyl – often lead heroin abusers to use larger and more dangerous doses.
Drug Crime Ongoing in Silicon Valley
The illicit drug market in California is booming thanks to a sophisticated trafficking network that funnels drugs into the country from Mexico. Tech giant company culture plays a part in this growing concern. As a result, lawmakers and law enforcement agencies are constantly searching for new ways to stem the growing numbers of opioid overdoses and drug-related crimes.
The recent death of Google executive Forrest Timothy Hayes in 2014 has helped to shine the spotlight on illicit drug abuse in Silicon Valley, though the rising statistics of drug abuse, overdoses, and deaths shows us that many in Silicon Valley are still turning to substance abuse despite warnings.