Former Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh’s Family Chronicles Drug Use

Tony Hsieh’s drug use detailed in court

In a lawsuit over the succession of the former CEO of Zappos, Tony Hsieh’s family shared the entrepreneur’s drug use story. Hsieh’s family claim that her former assistant, along with others around her, took advantage of her deteriorated mental state due to substance abuse. Hsieh, 46, died in a house fire last November.

The trial

Jennifer “Mimi” Pham, Hsieh’s longtime friend and ex-assistant, claims she is entitled to more than $ 9 million from Hsieh’s estate for the work she has done on his behalf. Allegations during the ongoing lawsuit indicate that Pham’s company, Rove & Whim, was under contract with Hsieh to provide personal and project-related assistance services. This included a charge of $ 30,000 per day for these services. Pham’s boyfriend Roberto Grande and his friend Tony Lee are also accused of profiting from Hsieh’s decline. Lee is currently asking for $ 7 million from Hsieh’s estate for providing “assistance” at times during their nearly 17-year friendship.

Because Hsieh had no will in place when his life ended in 2020, the judge appointed his father, Richard Hsieh, and brother, Andrew Hsieh, as special trustees of his estate. Over the past week, the Heish family and their attorneys have shared how drug addiction allowed Pham, Lee, and Grande to exploit Heish’s mental state.

Use of Hsieh’s ketamine

Hsieh’s family said that in an effort to alleviate his social anxiety, Hsieh often drank alcohol or used substances such as Adderall, Xanax, and Ambien. In November 2019, Hsieh began experimenting with ketamine, a substance that has become increasingly popular among teens and young adults at parties, nightclubs and raves. Ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic that can be injected, snorted, or smoked. Those who use ketamine report feeling disconnected, out of control, and detached from pain and their surroundings. This substance is known to cause hallucinations.

As Hsieh continued to abuse ketamine, his hallucinations became more frequent and more elaborate. His family described Hsieh as having “disorganized delusions of grandeur.” They provided an example of these hallucinations through Hsieh’s belief in the “simulation hypothesis” which was the idea that all humans live in a simulation. Court documents said Hsieh believed ketamine gave him the skills to defeat simulation and save humanity.

The family believe that Hsieh was unable to recognize how negatively the ketamine affected him because he had developed an addiction. This inability to sober up and a continued lack of sleep have been cited as the reason he was unable to perform the basic tasks of his role as CEO of Zappos.

Hsieh was admitted to a rehabilitation center in February 2020 after a procedure performed by his friends. During the treatment, a close friend made a list of the behaviors exhibited by Hsieh that led to his intervention. This list included several things Hsieh believed he could do, such as manifesting water, transforming into animals or objects, and uploading “talents” to his brain with minimal study. Despite this treatment attempt and the concerns of his friends, Hsieh continued to use ketamine and other substances.

On the way to Montana with friends in June 2020, Hsieh asked his friends to make a suicide pact and exhibited other abnormal behaviors like packing only a box of pencils for the trip. Upon returning home, he was taken to hospital as he was showing signs of psychosis. After this incident, Hsieh began to abuse nitrous oxide as a substitute for ketamine.

What is nitrous oxide?

Nitrous oxide, also known as “laughing gas”, is often used for sedation during medical or dental procedures. This colorless and non-flammable gas causes feelings of dizziness, relaxation and hallucinations. Similar to ketamine, nitrous oxide is used recreationally in raves and music festivals. This substance is not often linked to overdose deaths, which is why many underestimate the risk of nitrous oxide misuse. Despite this, there are negative effects such as low blood pressure, heart attack, nerve damage, memory loss, depression, and decreased coordination.

Since nitrous oxide provides a rapid high when inhaled, the term “whippets” is often used to refer to recreational use. Those who use nitrous oxide recreationally can purchase the substance in “whipped cream feeder” cans or medical gas tanks. The gas is usually transferred to a balloon or plastic bag to be inhaled.

Hsieh starts using nitrous oxide

Hsieh’s friends say he used up to 50 cartridges of nitrous oxide every day and often in public or at meetings. Witnesses described her home and bedroom littered with hundreds of used cartridges among other alarming items such as broken glass, dog droppings and rotten food. He was also trying to make his house become one with nature by redirecting a stream closer to his patio to do the dishes. He had also decided to replace all the electricity with candles and tiki torches, which caused his fire alarms to go off frequently at all hours of the night.

When a friend contacted the Hsieh family with concerns about his drug use and dramatic weight loss, they attempted to step in to help. Her brother tried to quietly add vitamins and protein supplements to her diet. Richard, his father, sent an addiction specialist to his home, but he was denied access. It was around this time that Hsieh stepped down as CEO of Zappos.

In November 2020, Hsieh fell asleep in a shed in a Connecticut home after an argument with his girlfriend. The shed, filled with candles, a propane heater and a 20 lb propane tank, caught fire. It is believed the fire was caused by one of the candles setting the blanket on fire and a nearby plastic bag. It was speculated that Hsieh had used nitrous oxide before the fire that led to his death.

What role did Pham, Lee and Grande play?

“Tony’s true friends, uninterested in taking advantage of Tony’s condition, became increasingly concerned about Tony’s health and many were looking for ways to get professional help from Tony. Unfortunately, in the months following Tony’s departure from the rehab facility, several less scrupulous people occupied Tony’s attention and were living in freedom, all at Tony’s expense, ”court documents said in reference to the Hsieh’s relationship with Pham, Lee and Grande.

Although knowledge of Hsieh’s drug abuse, heavy drug use, and weight loss is known and acknowledged by Pham, Lee, and Grange, they deny any wrongdoing. Hsieh’s family say the group took millions from him in a matter of months.

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