It's not just overworked tech workers — high-ranking tech leaders are increasingly turning to alcohol and painkillers as they grapple with high stress and long hours.
Especially ever since the COVID-19 pandemic, new research finds, CEOs have been turning to controlled substances to manage stress and long hours.
In a recent survey of 501 tech leaders by All Points North (APN), a "mind-body health company" that offers mental health programs, and independent market research consultancy Censuswide, almost half of tech leaders use controlled substances every day or almost every day.
While it's worth pointing out that APN is financially vested in treating tech leaders with substance abuse issues, the numbers still paint a dire picture.
A particularly provocative finding? That the specter of artificial intelligence putting humans out of their jobs appears to be a significant factor in all the drinking and pill-popping.
A whopping 74 percent of respondents said that "AI and the thought of being replaced by a computer have negatively impacted their health," according to the survey. Another 31 percent said they "worry AI will take their job."
"The old anxieties of the long-forgotten dot-com bubble burst have resurfaced, and tech leaders and employees are scrambling to deal with the harsh realities of job insecurity," APN founder and CEO Noah Nordheimer wrote in the report, calling the findings "grim."
"The impacts aren’t just economical, either: the rise of generative AI, specifically the mainstream launch of ChatGPT, is expected to create new jobs while eliminating others, causing a drastic reshuffling of the workforce not seen since the industrial revolution," he added.
And tech leaders are clearly feeling the pressure over relentless worker cullings in the industry as well, with 31 percent reporting having increased their alcohol intake "due to stress regarding layoffs."
As a result, according to Nordheimer, tech leaders are "turning to dangerous coping mechanisms as an escape."
Substances include the usual suspects like cigarettes, nicotine vapes, and alcohol. But 45 percent of respondents also reported having used painkillers, including Codeine, Oxytocin, and Vicodin, to cope with high stress. Another 34 percent reported having used stimulants like Adderall, while 35 percent said they used sleeping pills.
It's not just pharma, either. As the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this year, entrepreneurs including Twitter CEO Elon Musk and Google founder Sergey Brin have joined a growing number of leaders microdosing psychoactive substances including LSD and magic mushrooms, both of which made an appearance in the APN report, alongside a cornucopia ranging from anabolic steroids to ketamine.
Other experts have corroborated the observation that white-collar workers are turning to drugs. Daniel Angres, medical director at Chicago’s Positive Sobriety Institute, told Bloomberg earlier this year that substance use has only gone up as people turned to remote work over the last couple of years. And that's especially the case in industries like tech, finance, and law, where there are typically fewer resources for workers, such as access to therapists or drug testing.
It's that kind of lack of support that Nordheimer argues should change.
"It’s time for the tech industry to confront the root of these mental health issues and give its employees the support they need," he wrote in the report. "An established culture of innovation in tech could nudge this sector toward effective emerging treatments if the industry is brave enough to embrace the opportunity."
More on tech leaders and drugs: After Blowing Up Crypto Industry, Exec Turns to Magic Mushrooms
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