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Addictions in the Startup World

Table of Content

Table of Content

Addictions in the Startup World

Substance use disorder can cause serious health issues and complications both in a person’s personal and professional life. It is especially prevalent in the corporate world, specifically in startup businesses. Many people in the startup world have a dependency on illicit substances like cocaine or heroin, and prescription stimulants like Adderall

In the fast-paced world of startups, many people rely on these substances to help them push forward and make their startups succeed. Unfortunately, reliance on these substances leads to the formation of addiction that has long-term consequences on a person’s life. Below we’ll discuss the prevalence of addiction in startups.

Drug Addiction In Startups

Drug and alcohol dependency continues to be an ongoing issue many people deal with daily. It has skyrocketed in startups and areas where many startups reside, including New York and California. Many people in these areas rely on drugs and alcohol to help them keep up with the fast-paced culture of creating and growing a startup business.

This reliance on drugs and alcohol to meet performance standards and cope with the startup environment leads to substance misuse and addiction. Substance misuse offers expensive complications for startups and business owners. While many people take the substances to help them focus or maintain stamina, these drugs often have the opposite effect. Substance misuse leads to absenteeism, decreased productivity, and more.

In more severe cases, a substance dependency can lead to injury, severe accidents, and death. Addressing substance misuse in the startup setting ensures the well-being of all employees and lowers the risk of accidents or injuries.

Why Is Drug and Alcohol Addiction Common In Startups?

A startup’s culture and office environment directly influence the well-being of employees. In some cases, a startup may have a more relaxed alcohol and drug policy, which does not strictly discourage or prohibit substance use within the office. Additionally, those who work within the office can impact the company’s substance use tolerance.

For example, some research suggests that occupations and offices comprised largely of men may create a heavier drinking culture. Researchers found that men are almost two times more likely to binge drink than women, with approximately 22% of men binge drinking five times a month. If a startup is predominantly men, it could leave them vulnerable to creating an “acceptable” substance use culture.

While addiction can happen anywhere, substance abuse among startup workers is especially prevalent. Some of the most common reasons that dependencies develop in startups include:

  • Stress: Workplace responsibilities and deadlines can lead to anxiety and stress in many employees. Unfortunately, some employees may seek to self-medicate by misusing substances or alcohol as a way to cope with ongoing workplace stress. Extreme stress, especially paired with mounting responsibilities or unsupportive management, may cause some employees to misuse substances as a way to cope with negative emotions.
  • Long work hours: Similar to workplace stress, long work hours can increase anxiety or negative emotions, potentially increasing a person’s desire to self-medicate and misuse substances. If an employee feels overworked or they lack personal time, these factors may worsen stress and negative emotions. Self-medicating may take place for some employees to manage long shifts or busy schedules. Additionally, employees may try to use stimulants to keep themselves awake and focused.
  • Workplace alienation: The environment an employee is in daily plays a large role in the employee’s overall well-being. An under-appreciated employee or an employee who feels alienated or isolated may be more likely to develop a substance use disorder. Without a support system, feelings of isolation or loneliness often worsen negative emotions, such as workplace stress.
  • Social culture: Many employees find it easy to bring alcohol or a substance to the workplace, especially if there is no clear rule against alcohol or drug use on office property. In some cases, an employee may find it easy to drink during lunch breaks or bring alcohol or a substance into the office or their workplace. Additionally, if coworkers partake in using drugs or drinking alcohol, it may influence other employees to participate.

Common Drugs Used in Startups

Common drugs found in startup companies include illicit ones like cocaine and heroin, prescription stimulants like Adderall, and prescription painkillers like hydrocodone.


Silicon Valley in the 1980s was the focal point of tech innovation and an international cocaine trafficking network. In 1986, DEA agents seized 374 pounds of cocaine and 1,000 pounds the following year. Cocaine in startups became so normalized that insurance companies raised the premiums of tech workers to cover the health risks.

With side effects like increased energy and alertness, cocaine is still used by startup employees today to combat stress and fatigue. In many work environments, cocaine goes beyond an open secret to just open use, creating a setting of peer pressure and an obligation to partake. For others, drug addiction among startup workers is driven by a desire for professional success, leading to the normalization of cocaine in Corporate America.

Often, the dangers of the drug are ignored for short-term relief. While users might take cocaine for the initial effects, prolonged use can lead to a dangerous cycle of addiction, overdose, coma, or death.


Like cocaine, methamphetamine is an illicit substance common in the startup world. Many workers might turn to this drug for its potent effects — feeling more awake and energized, less hungry, and having a fast-paced heartbeat. In a world of fast-paced, relentless work and employees often working long hours late into the night, meth use can quickly become addicting and dangerous.

Severe effects of methamphetamine use include:

  • Increased respiratory rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Insomnia
  • Paranoia
  • Anxiety
  • Aggression and violence
  • Cardiovascular problems like a stroke and heart attack
  • Tremors
  • Convulsions
  • Death 


Adderall is a stimulant often prescribed to treat symptoms of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Within a startup addiction culture, employees might misuse Adderall and other stimulants to keep up with production demands and 12-hour workdays. Initial effects can include improved focus, memory, and reaction time.

However, Adderall can become highly addictive when misused and cause long-term impacts on the mind and body. Severe symptoms of Adderall misuse can include:

  • Pounding heartbeat or fast heart rate
  • Feeling faint or dizzy
  • Changes in vision
  • Chest pain
  • Numbness in the arms or legs
  • Slowed speech
  • Exhaustion, fever, or itchiness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Difficulty swallowing or breathing
  • Seizures

Prescription Opioids

While uppers like Adderall might be misused in startup addiction culture, prescription painkillers are often abused to take the edge off when employees get home. Amidst the backdrop of a national surge in prescription opioid addiction, research finds working professionals with college degrees make up a large percentage of people misusing opiates like hydrocodone. This description fits many of the thousands of workers in corporate Silicon Valley.

Employees might turn to prescription painkillers for initial feelings like euphoria or relaxation. However, after repeated use, the body can become dependent on these substances and experience uncomfortable or hazardous withdrawal symptoms when attempting to stop. The effects can lead to a dangerous cycle, as people often increase their dosage to avoid them.

Opioid addiction can lead to severe symptoms, including overdose. When a person overdoses on opioids, their breathing often slows or stops, resulting in coma, permanent brain damage, or death.

What to Do If You Suffer From Addiction

Substance use disorder presents consequences that directly impact your personal and professional life. Seeking treatment as quickly as possible can help you receive proper treatment and increase the potential for life-long recovery. No matter how long a person has misused alcohol or a substance, rehabilitation is still possible. If you or a loved one are experiencing alcohol or substance use disorder symptoms, you may want to consider these steps.

1. Seek Emotional Support

One of the most important aspects of recovering from an alcohol or substance dependency is to seek emotional support. While this step is challenging, talking with a friend, family member or even a close co-worker can help you determine appropriate steps to take toward healing and recovery.

Speaking openly about difficult feelings or substance misuse provides a productive first step to addressing a dependency and seeking treatment. A close family member or co-worker can help you find a treatment center that is right for your unique needs. Dealing with substance misuse can be challenging, especially alone. A support group is vital to helping you make progress and work through the challenges of overcoming addiction.

2. Search for a Treatment Center

Substance use disorders and alcohol dependencies are dangerous diseases that put lives at stake. A treatment center teaches people about addiction and how it affects each aspect of their lives. Additionally, a drug dependency treatment program helps you break the cycle of dependency and determine the underlying issues that may contribute to substance use disorder.

An effective treatment program helps you build healthy habits and practices to take with you after completing treatment. One of the most important steps is to create and establish boundaries. Following treatment, you will come across many people, places, and situations that may pose a risk to sobriety. Learning to develop boundaries can help you lead a healthy life.

3. Address Your Mental Health

Mental health problems often occur alongside alcohol or substance misuse. In some cases, people may misuse a substance or alcohol in an attempt to self-medicate and ease negative emotions of an underlying mental health condition. Unfortunately, this path often worsens a person’s mental health and exacerbates negative emotions.

In addition to treating the medical aspects of substance and alcohol addiction, an important aspect of treatment is to address mental health. Common mental health concerns that often play a role in substance misuse include anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and trauma.

Get Treatment for Substance Use Disorder at Gateway Foundation

Get Treatment for Substance Use Disorder at Gateway Foundation 

In today’s competitive startup world, success often comes down to who can stay afloat the longest in a market that prizes innovation and risk-taking. And unfortunately, many entrepreneurs find themselves caught up in a cycle of addiction as they try to keep up with the fast pace of their businesses. Addiction can immensely impact a person’s livelihood, affecting a person’s career success and mental and physical health. At Gateway Foundation, we can help those struggling with this disease.

Our compassionate and highly experienced team provides various programs and services to meet your needs, including behavioral therapies, medically assisted treatment, and holistic modalities. We understand the importance of connecting with support systems, so we offer many services to help you regain control over your life.

Get started with a substance use disorder treatment and contact us today.

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