LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Drug problems among workers in London’s financial district have rocketed in the last year because of stresses caused by the recession, according to the founder of a rehabilitation center.
Don Serratt, chief executive of Life Works, said they had seen about a 25 percent increase in the number of people from the City seeking treatment for alcohol and cocaine abuse in the last few months.
“It has a lot to do with the current economic environment,” said Serratt, himself a former alcoholic and addict.
“Either they have been made redundant or (they have) fears around being made redundant or fears around lowered income because many of these people have high personal overheads,” he told Reuters.
“Even if you keep your job but you are looking at making a fraction of what you made, it adds quite a bit of stress.”
On Tuesday, Dr Neil Brener, medical director at London’s Priory Clinic which has treated many celebrities for drug issues, said City workers were those most likely to suffer cocaine problems.
“Certainly people working in the financial industry are more likely to run into problems,” he told members of parliament (MPs) on the Home Affairs Select Committee.
“They have a very high pressure job and they often start using it, not so much as a reward system but as a system to try and keep themselves going in highly pressured situations.”
The Home Office (interior ministry) says that Britain has the highest reported cocaine use of any country in the European Union, official figures reporting that 12,354 adults were now receiving treatment for cocaine use.
According to government figures, 3 percent of all 16 to 59-year-olds used cocaine last year, the highest number since statistics were first collected in 1996, meaning nearly a million people had taken the drug.
However, while the drug’s use has risen, its street price and purity has fallen, law enforcement and charity groups say.
Serratt said anxiety and depression were the two major causes of drug abuse, and both had been abundant in the City in the past year. However, it had taken about nine months for the effect of the recession to filter through.
“Bankers, lawyers, accountants — the higher functioning addicts — they’re used to working hard and playing hard so their stamina for it is higher than other categories of people. It just takes time for them to hit a bottom,” he said.
“They may have been made redundant nine months ago, but it’s taken time for them to just spiral out of control.”
However many companies were still not doing enough to help their staff, he warned.
“Most of them do not even have a drug or alcohol policy,” he said. “A lot of firms, particularly with high performers, turn a blind eye and most of their staff, if not all, have had no training in how to spot it and how to deal with it.”
Despite indications that Britain’s economic troubles were easing, Serratt predicted the situation regarding drug abuse would not improve in the short-term.
“There’s still quite a bit of folks that are going to be in tough times for a number of years,” he said.
“I think it will continue after a more robust economic environment gets going.”
Editing by Steve Addison