Side Effects

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The Meltdown in the Markets Is Leading to a Surge in Addictions among Traders

Why addiction rates are surging among traders, and why that affects us all

File this under the worrying but unsurprising. With all the market turbulence these days and the billions of euros, pounds, and dollars that are wiped daily from the markets whenever they suffer a case of the jitters, the British Guardian is reporting that the meltdown in the markets is contributing to a surge in City addictions—by which the newspaper means the "City of London," the city's financial district.

"Drug and alcohol problems are rising at an alarming rate" among traders there, the Guardian reports. "Counseling service founder says record numbers of workers in City of London are seeking treatment for drug and alcohol problems."

As the City is to London, so Wall Street is to New York and the U.S. more broadly—for better and for worse. So it's not difficult to see parallels between the spike in British diagnoses of alcohol and drug abuse among traders and those working on Wall Street, in Paris's Bourse, and so on, all of them experiencing the same dramatic dopamine highs and crashes while gaining or losing billions of dollars (or other currencies). One London-based trader for the Swiss investment bank UBS recently was arrested for trading losses reaching a staggering $2.3 billion, owing to the insane risks he was taking with other people's money. The Daily Telegraph recently ran a feature on the same phenomenon among "infamous" rogue traders in London, Paris, and Tokyo, with the cumulative losses reaching the high billions in several currencies. I think it goes without saying: it's not the best time to be losing such incredible sums of money.

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So to read the following in the Guardian about the ongoing abuse of cocaine among traders is far from reassuring.

One trader speaks quite candidly to the reporter of "shoving my six figure bonuses up my nose."

Such drug use "is absolutely rife in the City," another trader adds. "The cocaine dealers have not gone out of business because I've stopped. I could take you five minutes from here to 15 or 20 bars where you would be guaranteed to be able to buy cocaine."

According to the founder of a specialist treatment center in the City (Richard Kingdon), "the climate of markets going into meltdown and banks implementing mass job cuts has prompted record numbers of City workers to seek treatment for addiction. He says his service, City Beacon, has worked with nearly 100 clients over the past two years."

A good sign—that they're in treatment? Or a bad one—that the numbers are so large, likely even larger?

As Kingdon, the treatment director, says: "I'm seeing increasing numbers of people who've been taking a variety of substances to deal with the stress of their lives."

Especially these days, what are the prospects for stress reduction? With the euro crisis at full tilt, such stress is understandable, doubtless inevitable. The question is, What's the scale of the problem in drug and alcohol abuse among traders, and what's the contributing effect of that abuse on market turbulence, especially at this volatile time?

Prefer not to have to think about such things? You are not alone.

www.christopherlane.org

Christopher Lane, Ph.D., teaches literature and intellectual history at Northwestern University and is the author of Shyness: How Normal Behavior Became a Sickness. more...

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