Silicon Valley Substance Abuse Redux

Silicon Valley
Do the West Coast papers cover drug use in Silicon Valley to the extent that other publications do? Because it certainly seems to pop up in other media. Take microdosing, as an example. It’s a valid way to study the effect of a new medication on the body more safely than administering a full dose, but workers in the Valley are microdosing LSD, saying it makes them more productive.

An internet search on “microdosing + Silicon Valley” turns up articles in at least two publications (Forbes was writing about it as early as 2015) and on several websites:  Business InsiderHuffpostMedium, and The Independent and Wired from the U.K…but it took going to the SFgate website and searching to find an article on Silicon Valley and microdosing.

This Summit Estate Recovery Center blog first wrote about drug use in Silicon Valley last winter (2018), and it’s important enough subject to revisit it. At the end of the summer, a contributing writer for The New York Timeswrote an opinion article about a recent visit to the Valley and what she found. There are online and hardcopy headlines: “How and Why Silicon Valley Gets High” and “Turn On, Tune In, Start Up.” The writer had lunch with a couple entrepreneurs there, which were sad upates on the current state of affairs there. One lunchmate told her “that magic mushrooms will help …[her]  become a better reporter … and … that Ecstasy will make …[her] a nicer person.” Seems he also suggested she try ayahuasca, a “brew made from plants that includes the hallucinogen DMT”. Soon afterward she learned that Tesla’s board was worried about company founder Musk’s admission that he has occasionally used drugs.


This was just before the popular Burning Man gathering, and she associated the festival with the use of ketamine. It sounded like that put her over the top:

“I spoke to just over a dozen people who all said consumption was increasing once again. Obviously, there are major problems with addiction to opiates and alcohol here, as elsewhere. But people in Silicon Valley tend to view drugs differently from those in places like, say, Hollywood and Wall Street. The point is less to let off steam or lose your inhibitions than to improve your mind.”
Silicon Valley

She quotes a tech worker as saying “It is all, about the ‘intellectualizing of drug use as a stimulant for the brain’ and refers to Michael Pollan and his book, “How to Change Your Mind,” about the resurgence of psychedelic drugs. He told her that “the exploration of drugs by tech workers remains part of the industry’s ‘hacking ethos’.”


A number of people commented on her article on their own blog. One wrote, “This is what you get when ordinary men aren’t calling the shots: society thinks nothing of pressuring unsexy men to work 200 hours a week, shooting up whatever drugs are needed to make Executive Chad’s arbitrary deadlines, using frickin’ hallucinogens for inspiration and friendship.” I won’t link to the post because he also makes misogynist comments and derogatory comments about one ethnicity.


The article itself had 229 comments on the paper’s website. Here’s one: “Is it any surprise that the gurus of AI and ‘the singularity’ would be taken in by pharmaceutical transcendence? Intelligence without thinking, ‘social media’ instead of culture, spiritual depth in a pill–it’s all about what sells, not what works. It would be funny if the world were laughing instead of throwing money at them.”


And here’s another: “I have always thought (and personally believed) that to expand one’s mind, first the person had to expand their empathy for all others. If you need a drug (natural or synthetic) with your sole purpose … to achieve some type of nirvana that will lead to you pushing yourself above another, then that sort of defeats the purpose, doesn’t it?”


You wonder about the future for these companies and their employees. Will things every change there? What will it take to turn it around? How do you change drug culture embedded in so many tech companies? How do you reach the hard-driving people at the top who are part of the problem if not the whole problem? And what about the individuals who are hurting themselves and their loved ones? What happens to them?