Drug use in the City still a real problem

The use of alcohol and cocaine remains rife among City workers in spite of rising unemployment and lower wages following the credit crunch, leading physicians involved in the treatment of drug abusing professionals have warned.

Neil Brenner, medical director of Priory psychiatric hospital in north London, told the Financial Times that the number of bankers coming to him for treatment had risen significantly over the past three years, even when taking account of a large dip after the onset of the financial crisis in 2008. “I still think this is a real problem in the City,” Dr Brenner said.

Earlier, Dr Brenner told MPs on the parliamentary home affairs committee that people working in financial services were more likely to run into problems with powdered cocaine abuse than other elements of society.

“They often have a high-pressure job and will often start using it not so much as a reward system but as a way to keep themselves going,” he said.

Recent Home Office figures show that Britons are the biggest consumers of cocaine in Europe, with 1m people estimated to have taken the drug in the past year. About 12,000 people are being treated for their use of powdered cocaine.

Dr Brenner said the cocaine problem affected all echelons of the financial services industry, “from the chief executive all the way down to the postroom”.

Nick Barton, chief executive of the Action on Addiction charity, which also runs treatment centres for addicts, agreed that he had seen “no kind of decrease” in the number of City cocaine users approaching his organisation for help. “This problem hasn’t disappeared,” he added.

The recent financial crisis might have added to the pressure on bank workers to use narcotics to lift productivity, Mr Barton said. “If people are going to have to work that much harder, cocaine will have its appeal as both an aide and a recreational tool,” he said.

But the medical experts also said alcohol abuse remained a far greater problem among the professions than any other substance.

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