Psychoactive Substance Use by Professional Programmers

Reviewed by Greg Wilson / 2023-05-10
Keywords: Development Practices

Kaia Newman, Madeline Endres, Brittany Johnson, and Westley Weimer. From organizations to individuals: psychoactive substance use by professional programmers. 2023. arXiv:2305.01056.

Psychoactive substances, which influence the brain to alter perceptions and moods, have the potential to have positive and negative effects on critical software engineering tasks. They are widely used in software, but that use is not well understood. We present the results of the first qualitative investigation of the experiences of, and challenges faced by, psychoactive substance users in professional software communities. We conduct a thematic analysis of hour-long interviews with 26 professional programmers who use psychoactive substances at work. Our results provide insight into individual motivations and impacts, including mental health and the relationships between various substances and productivity. Our findings elaborate on socialization effects, including soft skills, stigma, and remote work. The analysis also highlights implications for organizational policy, including positive and negative impacts on recruitment and retention. By exploring individual usage motivations, social and cultural ramifications, and organizational policy, we demonstrate how substance use can permeate all levels of software development.