Wall Street Men Addicted to Drugs, Money
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Wall Street Men Addicted to Drugs, Money


Wall Street Men AddictedAs addiction news continues to be dominated by the rapidly growing opiate problem in our country, we’re seeing drugs like Oxycontin and Fentanyl level the playing field as far as age, race, gender, creed, sexual orientation, education and social class. A recent article by Manhattan addiction specialist Dr. Dana Jane Saltzman lays out the trouble bubbling under the surface of Wall Street, where the pace is fast and the pressure high. Apparently, however, it’s not as high as some of the people that work there.

In The Wolf of Wall Street, Leonardo Di Caprio played a Wall Street stockbroker who fueled his drive to succeed with cocaine and Quaaludes. That was the early 1990s. Ten years later, Saltzman opened her practice to discover that not much had changed. In fact, it seems things are getting worse. Since 2000, she’s been treating the young male opiate addicts of Wall Street and over the last four or five years, she’s noticed a spike in the numbers of patients looking for help. Good business for her but bad business for business.

Theoretically, I understand why people who work in highly competitive, high stakes fields might turn to alcohol and drugs to manage the ups and down of their profession. If what we’ve seen in The Wolf of Wall Street and Mad Men is any indication, the suits of Manhattan’s yesteryear were no strangers to wetting their noon whistles with a scotch or two. But a Rob Roy at lunch is a far cry from intravenous heroin before breakfast, which is what Saltzman is dealing with.

The connection between high-powered positions and high-powered sedatives may go deeper than just managing the anxiety of the New York Stock Exchange. In a January article for the New York Times, former hedge fund trader Sam Polk wrote about his drug and alcohol addiction and how his path of recovery led him to realize a larger problem: with a few years of sobriety under his belt, he found himself fiercely competitive with his peers, driven by an insatiable hunger for money no less obsessive or troublesome than drugs and alcohol had been. Polk’s struggle with “wealth addiction” caused him to walk out on a $3.6 million dollar bonus because it wasn’t $8 million. Now, that’s a lot of cunning, baffling and powerful zeroes.

So maybe the spike in opiate abuse that Saltzman is seeing in her practice is a result of cross-addiction. When making money isn’t working—or isn’t enough to feed the beast—a potent drug like Oxycontin can slide right in and pick up the slack. But, as Polk points out, there isn’t a 12-step program for wealth addiction so how do addicts with six-figure salaries who are buying million-dollar condos with cash get sober? In other words, how does someone who’s on top of the world hit bottom?

Sure, realizing you’re powerless when you can essentially sleep on a pile of cash can be hard but addicts certainly don’t have to lose it all in order to hit a bottom and spiritual bottoms have nothing to do with cashola at all. But those surrounding the high-rolling high person would probably be best to be on extra alert to set clear boundaries to create defined consequences for the person they care about.

In addition to white-collar executives, a large part of Saltzman’s practice is made up of the kid of affluent families who have come to New York to pursue creative dreams and ended up under the thumb of addiction. “It can be easier to help these younger users because they rely on their parents’ cash flow,” Saltzman notes. But then again, it all depends on whether the parents are willing to take her direction and stop sending their kids money. Without the family seeking their own support (read: going to Alanon and learning how care-taking can literally kill), this can be more difficult than it sounds.

So while on paper—and perhaps in our fantasies—an abundance of financial resources may seem like it would fix everything, in truth it can make things more challenging if the addict hasn’t truly hit his or her own personal bottom or if the finances aren’t allocated cautiously. Money can buy a lot of things (even love, if you ask me) but it sure can’t buy long-term sobriety.

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About Author

Danielle Stewart is a Los Angeles-based writer and recovering comedian. She has written for Showtime, E!, and MTV, as well as print publications such as Us Weekly and Life & Style Magazine. She returned to school and is currently working her way towards a master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. She loves coffee, Law & Order SVU, and her emotional support dog, Benson.