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Cocaine Survivors

Cocaine Survivors

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Published by: api-26008400 on Oct 13, 2009
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12/28/2012

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bloomberg markets
November 2009
58
N
eill Junor remembers the exact momenthe decided to quit snorting cocaine. Ona chilly December afternoon in 2005,the former equities analyst took a stroll in Lon-don’s deer-lled Richmond Park to select thetree from which he would hang himself. Junor’s decision to step back from the brinkmarked the end of a six-year binge of drug andalcohol abuse that by then had cost Junor hismarriage and a career that paid him as much as1 million pounds ($1.7 million) a year. He wasout of work, having already walked away from both his analyst job at BT Alex. Brown and asubsequent position in a dot-com venture. “I burned through everything,” Junor says. “I knewthere was a choice—and the choice was to hangfrom that tree or not.”His story reects the cocaine use that medicalexperts say is rampant in theCity, London’s nancial dis-trict. It’s a habit that often goes
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tddLndn’s hgh lff  hkn fn th unty.
The nancial bust has forced someaddicted traders and bankers to comeclean—although many of their colleaguesare still caught up in the City’s cultureof booze and coke.
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pgs b phil fiSk
London’s
Ccin suviv
 
bloomberg markets
November 2009
60
hand in hand with heavy drinking. Junor says he and his mates wanted to maintain the thrill they felt at work as they pouredinto the Square Mile’s pubs and clubs after a day of getting highon nance.“It’s the same rush from doing a deal and doing cocaine,” Junor,46, says. “The adulation from doing a deal spills into going for a beer and then a party—it’s an amorphous blob of energy.” Every-one knows about the City’s drug problem, recovering addicts say.Bosses turn a blind eye to drugs, as long as you’re making money for your rm—and until recently, making big money was easy to do.Executives in the detox business say bankers have swampedthem with calls since the nancial crisis began a year ago. TheCauseway Retreat, an addiction and mental health hospital forprofessionals on a secluded island 40 miles (64 kilometers) east of London, has 15 people on the waiting list for its 18-bed facility. While few walk away from addiction as dramatically as NeillJunor, some bankers are questioning whether the diminished re- wards of the City are worth sacricing their health, says PhilipHopley, a psychiatrist who runs a clinic at the Lloyd’s of Londoninsurance building to be close to where his patients work.“Doing cocaine or drinking heavily is part of the City culture; you work hard and you play hard and you get rewarded because your bonus is fantastic,” says Hopley, a consultant at The Priory,a group that runs several mental health centers. When the bo-nuses are cut and many of your friends lose their livelihoods,things no longer look so good. “A number of people now tell me:‘I nally realize what a shit job I have got. If it wasn’t for the bo-nus, I wouldn’t be working these hours and I wouldn’t be work-ing with these people.’” The number of people in the nanceindustry coming to see him has jumped by about 15 percentthis year, he says.
s
cientists say it’s
no accident that trading and cocainesometimes go together. Both involve taking risks andhave a similar eect on the brain. Each activity raisesdopamine levels, the organ’s feel-good chemical, ac-cording to Trevor Robbins, professor of cognitive neuroscienceat the University of Cambridge. Dopamine surges when we takerisks, such as going sky diving, betting on stock price move-ments or hiding in an oce rest room and snorting a line of coke. Studies show that people who take risks have low levels of dopamine receptors and try to shock the brain into a boost of the chemical through novel situations. They’re also more likely to become addicted, Robbins says.Those who don’t seek help fast enough, like investment man-ager Melvin Sabour, can become high-prole casualties. Sabour,
bndn Quinn
, headof The CausewayRetreat, says moreCity workers areseeking help.

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