Opioid Addiction on Wall Street

By Kelly Burch 01/08/18

The industry is “turning a blind eye to the problem because money is the bottom line” says one addiction specialist.

People Working Finance Stock Exchange

The Wolf of Wall Street depicted the hard-partying ways of some financial executives, but addiction experts say there is a more recent and sinister substance abuse problem in the financial industry: opioid abuse. 

“Opiates are a great way to numb out from the psychological pressures of the business, [and] forget if you have physical pain,” Dr. Nancy Irwin, a psychologist and addiction specialist with Seasons Recovery Centers in Los Angeles, told The New York Post

The industry is “turning a blind eye to the problem because money is the bottom line,” Irwin said. 

There has been no research into how prevalent opioid abuse is among Wall Street finance professionals, but addiction and overdose rates have climbed dramatically across the country in recent years. 

Despite more conversation about addiction, white-collar professionals can face intense stigma that prevents them from getting treatment, Irwin continued. 

“The fear of losing their jobs, the fear of stigma and shame and the lack of information on how to handle treatment while abiding by their professional boards” can keep people from getting help, Irwin said. In addition, people may worry that colleagues will react poorly to news of their addiction because they have been affected by it. 

“Workers on a busy crowded trading floor might affect many more others having to cover for them, do damage control, correct errors, take up the slack and apologize for outbursts,” Irwin said. 

Recently, Trey Laird, a former Wall Street trader, spoke to CNBC about his six-year opioid addiction. “Addiction pervades every single socioeconomic demographic that there is. Every industry, every race, men, women. It doesn’t care who you are,” he said. 

Laird went on to open a sober living community after getting sober himself. He says that there has been more talk about opioid addiction among people in higher socioeconomic brackets, but there is still much work that needs to be done. “While there is an increasing awareness around the problem, the problem as escalated so much,” Laird said

Laird and Irwin both say that they regularly see these finance professionals seeking treatment. “[I’ve] certainly had lots of CEOs, attorneys, entrepreneurs across the board,” Irwin said. 

Laird hopes to specifically serve that demographic, he told Bloomberg News last year. 

“Everything that’s happened in my life has made me ready for this moment—to help affluent guys in early recovery who are going through the same thing that I went through,” he said. 

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.