Rehab centers see bankers driven to drink

Tue Mar 24, 2009 3:03pm EDT
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By Claudia Parsons

NEW CANAAN, Connecticut (Reuters) - Cocaine and martinis on Wall Street? Nothing new there. Masters of the Universe admitting they have an alcohol problem? Not so common.

Experts say more and more people in finance are seeking treatment for addiction as the global economic crisis sinks its teeth into a high-stakes industry where confidence is the name of the game and nobody wants to admit to a weakness.

"We absolutely do see more people coming in naming either a job loss or huge financial reversals or big investments with Bernie Madoff," said Sigurd Ackerman, medical director at Silver Hill Hospital rehabilitation facility in New Canaan, Connecticut.

"They're being admitted with depression or increases in substance abuse, or both."

Ackerman said there was a high concentration of financial professionals in the town, 40 miles from New York, whose main streets are lined with high-end boutiques catering to the well-heeled wives of hedge fund managers and bankers.

"You're supposed to be a master of the universe, you're supposed to be on top of everything," said one financial services executive who began alcohol rehab in August.

"There's not a lot of sensitivity training or meetings where you sit around and ask how everyone is feeling," said the Connecticut executive, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "No one walks around saying 'I feel your pain.'"

Alcohol has long oiled the wheels of commerce on Wall Street, where bankers working long hours will entertain clients over dinner and drinks, or let off steam at late-night clubs with hard liquor and drugs.   Continued...

<p>A bartender at Suspenders bar in New York's as a television screen flashes the Dow Jones industrial average, March 18, 2009. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid</p>