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London is Home of High Finance

Economic crisis sees addiction snowball in London's Square Mile, where you can order cocaine at a pub before trading.

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By Anthony Daconti

09/12/11

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As crisis continues to batter the world economy, finance workers from New York to Tokyo are personally feeling the strain. One place where this is particularly pronounced is the City of London, the financial district of the UK's capital, which is home to the world's largest foreign exchange market and around 500 banks. Increasing numbers of finance workers there are using a variety of substances in reaction to the stress of their jobs. Yet there's just one specialist addiction counseling service based in the Square Mile, as the area is known. Richard Kingdon, a 42-year-old former soccer hooligan who founded City Beacon, told The Guardian, “Record numbers of City workers [now] seek treatment for addiction,” adding that the problem is still growing. A recovering drug addict and alcoholic, Kingdon has personally worked with nearly a hundred clients over the past two years and has witnessed this alarming rise in drug and alcohol problems first-hand: “The current market turmoil isn’t helping.” Despite the volatile economy, one business has boomed spectacularly, adding to the problems for Kingdon’s clients and many others. “[Cocaine] is absolutely rife in the City,” said "Daniel," a two-years-clean City worker who once couldn't stop "shoving my six figure bonuses up my nose." He referenced some 15 or 20 bars across the Square Mile where regulars can order certain bottles of vintage wine—and the names they give are a code for cocaine. “These bars are run by criminal syndicates where the food and drink is incidental,” Daniel explained. “They are fronts for drugs.” Kingdon said that City Beacon clients have also confessed to trading on the market under the influence of cocaine and alcohol, creating the potential for for further ruin. One case in point was that of oil futures broker Stephen Perkins, who went on a drinking binge last year before trading more than seven million barrels of oil, causing potential losses of $8 million. The UK's Financial Services Authority banned Perkins from working in the City for a minimum of five years. Last year the UK topped the European “league table” for cocaine use—even outstripping the levels seen in the US.

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