Understanding Substance Abuse and Addiction Among IT Professionals and Tech Industry Workers
Over the last 20 years, the tech industry has continued booming, with the heart of the industry located in Silicon Valley. Information technology (IT) professionals and other workers in tech are often touted for having flexible work schedules, work-from-home environments, and extra on-the-job perks. However, tech workers are often misunderstood in terms of their careers, face a lot of pressure from both co-workers and customers, and tend to be more isolated than workers in other industries.
All of these factors contribute to the concerning rates of substance abuse and addiction in the tech industry. Studies show that about 9.8% (or one in every 10) of tech workers struggle with substance abuse and nearly 9% are problem drinkers.[1,2]
Why Substance Abuse is Common Among Tech Workers
Tech industry workers are often thought of as intelligent, creative, and turnkey. However, successful professionals are not immune to substance abuse and addiction. Some of the most common reasons for substance abuse among IT professionals and tech workers include:
Technology is a rapidly growing and ever-changing industry. IT professionals and other tech workers must keep up with the latest trends, stay up-to-date with technology, and meet tight deadlines under a lot of pressure. This causes job stress which can lead to anxiety, depression, and burnout.
Stress takes a toll on the mind and body, and when people don’t know how to cope with it appropriately, they often turn to drugs or alcohol.
Flexible Work Schedules
Many IT workers have flexible work schedules or have the luxury of working from home. While flexibility is a blessing that many people would be jealous of, it also comes with a high demand for personal responsibility.
Tech workers who take advantage of this freedom may stay up late drinking, use drugs before or during work, or let their personal life begin affecting their work productivity. Working from home may also make it easier for some to hide their substance abuse or addiction because they aren’t seeing their co-workers face-to-face.
Work-from-home jobs have become more common because of the COVID-19 pandemic and tech is one industry where a lot of workers have the option to work from home. Working from home gives workers more time in their day that would otherwise be spent getting ready for work or driving to the office. However, working from home can also be lonely, and isolation is a major risk factor for depression, substance abuse, and addiction.
Burnout is a term used to describe exhaustion by constantly feeling overwhelmed or overworked. Burnout can happen to anyone in any career, but it is especially common in tech workers. Studies have found that nearly 2 in 5 tech workers want to quit their jobs due to burnout.
Affording the cost of rent, bills, and groceries without a job can be challenging, though, so some workers will turn to drugs or alcohol to numb the effects of burnout rather than quitting their job.
Understanding Silicon Valley Drug Culture
Silicon Valley is a region in the Southern San Francisco Bay area of California and it is home to many large technology companies including Facebook, Apple, Google, and more. Tech workers in this area often make lucrative and competitive salaries in exchange for high expectations and tight deadlines that must be met.
Unfortunately, this kind of work environment is stressful, and many famous IT professionals and executives have past histories of substance abuse and addiction. When you look past the outside appearance of success and luxury, you will find a culture ripe with drug and alcohol abuse.
For example, many tech employers sponsor happy hours or host events where alcohol is offered to employees, making employees feel as though drinking with their supervisors and co-workers will improve their workplace relationships.
Silicon Valley drug culture is so widespread that award-winning movies, such as The Social Network, have been released depicting drug and alcohol abuse taking place at major global tech companies like Facebook. This type of culture is widely viewed as acceptable by the rest of society because these individuals are still working and producing technology that we use every day, however, it can also leave the impression on tech workers that substance abuse is normal or accepted.
Substance Abuse and Addiction in the Tech Industry: By the Numbers
The most commonly abused substance by tech workers is marijuana. Nearly three out of every five tech workers have used cannabis–a number that is larger than the national average. However, the most disturbing drug abuse pattern in the tech industry involves prescription opioid abuse.
When compared to other industries, workers in tech abuse prescription pain relievers at a higher rate. Across all industries, about 15% of employees have abused prescription opioids like OxyContin or Percocet, but nearly 20% of tech workers have. A few contributing factors to opioid abuse among tech workers include the physical strain that sitting at a desk working at a computer can have on the body as well as the ongoing opioid epidemic.
In addition to marijuana and opioids, cocaine abuse (as well as prescription stimulants like Adderall) and heavy drinking are also common in the tech industry. Tech employees may abuse cocaine or Adderall to stay awake, work long hours, focus better, and meet deadlines. They may also abuse alcohol or work in an environment where heavy drinking is accepted and even encouraged. In fact, alcohol is so accepted in tech workplaces that over half of the industry is reported to include alcohol at team bonding events.
Addiction Treatment for IT Professionals and Tech Workers
When working professionals struggle with addiction, their productivity and job performance decline. Employees may not accomplish as much in the same amount of time as they used to, have errors in their work, or call out of work under the guise of various excuses on a regular basis.
Addiction can also impact a person’s physical, social, and mental health, but many professionals are hesitant to seek treatment because they fear losing their job. Fortunately, certain protections such as the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) help working professionals keep their jobs while seeking addiction treatment.
Given the prevalence of substance abuse and addiction in California’s tech industry and Silicon Valley, there are a number of residential and outpatient addiction treatment programs that offer care specific to IT professionals and tech workers. For example, a luxury rehab for professionals can offer high-speed Wi-Fi, increased privacy and confidentiality, and time designated for work.
At ARISE Treatment Center, our clinical care team will work with you to meet all of your specific needs, and on a case-by-case basis, we will allow access to computers and phones as well as high-speed WiFi so you can continue business as usual. However, you may be asked to limit your work participation so you give yourself enough space and time to heal. This type of workplace collaboration is generally not allowed at a regular rehab facility.
Find Help Today
Addiction can be painful and affect every aspect of your life, but you don’t have to suffer alone. Our team at ARISE Treatment Center can help you get sober, maintain your career, and establish healthy coping skills that pave the way for your success.
Don’t wait any longer to get the help you need and deserve. We’re available 24 hours a day to take your call, assess your needs, verify your insurance, and help you choose the right treatment program for you. Call now to get started.