Drugs, You Say?

October 8th, 2009 by Jason · No Comments · Uncategorized


From Bloomberg, a shocking – shocking – tale of cocaine usage among bankers. I had no idea! The story here is not so much the blow as it is the sudden cessation thereof, as the finance-minded do the math and realize how much their eightball budget has been cut back as of late.

Professionals in the detox business say bankers have swamped them with calls since the financial crisis widened a year ago. The Causeway Retreat, an addiction and mental health hospital for professionals on a secluded island 40 miles (64 kilometers) east of London, has 15 people on the waiting list for its 18-bed facility.

Buncha nancies, I tell ya. Why, if I tried to quit all my vices every time my industry took a nosedive in actual value and public opinion, sapping me of my professional drive, will to live, and exuberant income, I’d…I’d…well, that has never actually happened to me. But it’s going to take a lot more than just a little market jitter to make me quit sniffing glue off the backs of dead Costa Rican prostitutes, let me tell you.

“Doing cocaine or drinking heavily is part of the City culture; you work hard and you play hard and you get rewarded because your bonus is fantastic,” says Hopley, a consultant at The Priory, a group that runs several mental health centers. When the bonuses are cut and many of your friends lose their livelihoods, things no longer look so good.

The “City” here is London, but really, this could describe virtually any major city, except maybe Salt Lake City and Des Moines. Maybe Columbia too, I don’t know, I neither work hard nor receive a fantastic bonus. It’s no wonder 90% of all US money has Bolivian marching powder on it, with this being so popular in banking.

But why?

Scientists say it’s no accident that trading and cocaine sometimes go together. Both involve taking risks and have a similar effect on the brain. Each activity raises dopamine levels, the organ’s feel-good chemical, according to Trevor Robbins, professor of cognitive neuroscience at the University of Cambridge. Dopamine surges when we take risks, such as going sky diving, betting on stock price movements or hiding in an office rest room and snorting a line of coke.

Studies show that people who take risks have low levels of dopamine receptors and try to shock the brain into a boost of the chemical through novel situations. They’re also more likely to become addicted, Robbins says.

Well, there you have it. Traders have defective brains. Look, it’s not me, studies prove it. So there. And really, can you blame them? If your choices for that post-closing bell rush are faceplanting into a pile of yayo or BASE jumping out of the 79th floor conference room window, cocaine seems like the perfectly reasonable one.

So the next time you’re looking at your portfolio and you think to yourself, “Jesus, what was he thinking? Is my broker high?” you know the answer is, “Not for much longer!”

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