Cocaine Survivors

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    Neill Junor remembers the exact momenthe decided to quit snorting cocaine. On

    a chilly December afternoon in 2005,the former equities analyst took a stroll in Lon-dons deer-lled Richmond Park to select thetree from which he would hang himself.

    Junors decision to step back from the brinkmarked the end of a six-year binge of drug andalcohol abuse that by then had cost Junor hismarriage and a career that paid him as much as1 million pounds ($1.7 million) a year. He was

    out of work, having already walked away fromboth his analyst job at BT Alex. Brown and asubsequent position in a dot-com venture. Iburned through everything, Junor says. I knewthere was a choiceand the choice was to hangfrom that tree or not.

    His story reects the cocaine use that medicalexperts say is rampant in theCity, Londons nancial dis-trict. Its a habit that often goes

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    The nancial bust has forced someaddicted traders and bankers to come

    cleanalthough many of their colleaguesare still caught up in the Citys cultureof booze and coke.

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    hand in hand with heavy drinking. Junor says he and his mates

    wanted to maintain the thrill they felt at work as they poured

    into the Square Miles pubs and clubs after a day of getting high

    on nance.

    Its the same rush from doing a deal and doing cocaine, Junor,

    46, says. The adulation from doing a deal spills into going for a

    beer and then a partyits an amorphous blob of energy. Every-one knows about the Citys drug problem, recovering addicts say.

    Bosses turn a blind eye to drugs, as long as youre making money for

    your rmand until recently, making big money was easy to do.

    Executives in the detox business say bankers have swamped

    them with calls since the nancial crisis began 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.

    While few walk away from addiction as dramatically as Neill

    Junor, some bankers are questioning whether the diminished re-

    wards of the City are worth sacricing their health, says Philip

    Hopley, a psychiatrist who runs a clinic at the Lloyds of Londoninsurance building to be close to where his patients work.

    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 bo-

    nuses are cut and many of your friends lose their livelihoods,

    things no longer look so good. A number of people now tell me:

    I nally realize what a shit job I have got. If it wasnt for the bo-

    nus, I wouldnt be working these hours and I wouldnt be work-

    ing with these people. The number of people in the nance

    industry coming to see him has jumped by about 15 percentthis year, he says.

    scientists say its no accident that trading and cocaine

    sometimes go together. Both involve taking risks and

    have a similar eect on the brain. Each activity raises

    dopamine levels, the organs feel-good chemical, ac-

    cording 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 move-

    ments or hiding in an oce 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 ofthe chemical through novel situations. Theyre also more likely

    to become addicted, Robbins says.

    Those who dont seek help fast enough, like investment man-

    ager Melvin Sabour, can become high-prole casualties. Sabour,

    bndn Quinn, headof The CausewayRetreat, says moreCity workers areseeking help.

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    a managing director of AKN Investments

    Ltd., died of a cocaine overdose in Febru-

    ary. Sabour was depressed over losses at

    his privately held rm, his girlfriend

    Kyara Dekker told an April inquest into

    his death. She discovered Sabour, 44, un-

    conscious in the apartment they shared inMayfair, the neighborhood of townhouses

    and luxury stores thats home to money

    managers such as GLG Partners Inc. and

    Moore Capital Management LLC. Sabour

    was pronounced dead by paramedics at

    the scene. A postmortem examination

    found that Sabour had a lethal level of

    metabolized cocaine in his blood and

    attributed his demise to drug-triggered

    heart failure.

    Cocaine can and does have a bad eect

    on the heart and it is quite a signicant causeof death in men of younger age in this area of

    London, coroner Paul Knapman told the in-

    quest that determined the cause of Sabours death.

    Drugs and alcohol played a key role in the death of

    Darren Liddle, a 26-year-old xed-income analyst at Credit

    Suisse Group AG in London in September 2007. Liddle, who spent

    two stints in a psychiatric hospital, went on a cocaine and alco-

    hol binge at the Hilton hotel on Londons Park Lane just weeks

    after leaving the hospital for the second time. He sat on the

    ledge of his 19th-oor room, shaking and crying, for more than

    two hours before jumping to his death. A coroner told an inquest

    in January 2008 that job pressures may have contributed toLiddles addictions. Credit Suisse declined to comment on the

    incident. Liddles father and brother didnt respond to e-mails.

    Medical people are absolutely bamboozled by the level of

    abuse going on in the City and the extreme level of cocaine con-

    sumption, says Brendan Quinn, The Causeways chief execu-

    tive ocer and a specialist nurse in recovery treatment. More

    and more people are coming in, putting their hands up and

    saying: Ive got a problem and I need help.

    The spread of cocaine in the City is driven by ample supplies

    at cheap prices. Cocaine, the glamour drug for jet-setters in the

    1980s, has dropped in price to about 40 a gram from almost

    70 a gram in 1997, according to gures from the U.K. HomeOce. The price drop reects dealers success in diluting the

    product and opening up new supply routes, authorities say. The

    number of cocaine users in the U.K. has doubled to 1 million in

    the past decade, according to the United Nations World Drug

    Report 2009. The UN says British cocaine use peaked in

    2007the year after City bonuses reached a record

    8.8 billion. While bonuses will plummet more than

    60 percent from that high to 3.2 billion this year,according to the London-based Centre for Economics

    and Business Research Ltd., theres still plenty of

    money to buy cheap coke.

    Some recovering addicts seek help in the company of others

    secretly struggling with a drug habit. On a rainy day in July in

    the wood-paneled vestry of St. Michaels Church, a stones

    throw from the Bank of England, about a dozen bankers and

    traders sit around a mahogany table, talking about their addic-

    tions. With an antique wooden clock ticking in the background

    and takeout sandwiches on the table, men in pinstripe suits and

    women in conservative dressesusing rst names onlyshare

    stories of the daily challenge of keeping clean.One equities salesman and recovering addict at St. Michaels

    says the greatest challenge to keeping clean comes at the end of

    a workday. I could take you to four or ve pubs a few minutes

    from here, walk up to the bar and buy a pint and a gram of coke,

    says the man, who asked that he not be identied. If you con-

    tinue using, you become suicidal.

    ashort underground trainride away, on a warm Thurs-

    day evening in August, thousands of bankers spill out of

    pubs and restaurants in Londons Canary Wharf,

    clutching cold beers and mixed drinks. At a bar around

    the corner from the London headquarters of Citigroup Inc., CreditSuisse and Morgan Stanley, a man repeatedly brushes his right

    nostril with his thumb while waiting for the barman. In the mens

    restroom at the back of the bar, theres a smudge of white powder

    on the wooden lid of the toilet. When the lid is wiped with a cloth

    from London-based testing company Drug-Aware Ltd., a bright-

    blue spot emerges, indicating a positive cocaine sample.

    City bankers are merely a part of Britains culture of hard living.

    In September 2005, Londons Daily Mirrornewspaper published

    photos purporting to show model Kate Moss snorting cocaine

    along with her then-boyfriend, musician Pete Doherty. Moss

    lost contracts with Burberry Group Plc and Chanel SA after the YoraYLibermaN/GettYimaGes(top);daNieLacker/b


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    Id go to dinner parties where the host waschopping up a big line of coke on the cheeseboard, one former addict says. Cocaineis Londons middle-class dirty secret.

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    incident and attended a rehabilitation

    clinic in Arizona. Police didnt charge Moss

    after questioning her about the incident.

    At least one cocaine user at a nancial

    rm was brazen enough to deal the drug from his desk. David

    Frith, a 28-year-old banker who worked at Barclays Plcs oce

    in Basingstoke, England, was convicted in 2007 of selling drugs

    from his desk and received a jail sentence of 712years. Police

    listened to Friths phone calls, which had been routinely re-

    corded by the bank, and tracked his drug runners, according to

    a police spokesman. Barclays declined to comment on the inci-dent. Friths Basingstoke-based solicitors, Talbot Walker LLP,

    declined to comment.

    For some, the only escape from addiction is to quit their

    City career. Five years ago, Seth Freedman was a

    24-year-old private-client broker executing equities

    trades for wealthy individuals when his coke habit be-

    came all-consuming. His dealer would roll up to his oce in a

    station wagon with his latest stash.

    I was buzzing at work because of ickering screens, and I

    was managing lots of money, Freedman says, as he smokes a

    cigarette and nurses a glass of water at a pub in North London.When the market shuts, how do you keep that buzz going?

    In 2004, Freedman was sitting on the roof terrace of Coq

    dArgent restaurant, in the heart of the Square Mile, with both a

    30-year-old receptionist and a 16-year-old bottle of Lagavulin

    single-malt Scotch whisky in his lap. Thanks to the coke in his

    nose, he felt like the king of the City. Yet he woke up the next

    morning sporting two bleeding nostrilsand a determination

    to get out of his drug hell.

    I didnt want to be caught up in the

    vicious circle of money worship by day,

    hard drugs by night, and little to no

    structure past the next trade I put on orthe next gram I scored, he says.

    Instead of checking into rehab,

    Freedman decided to join the Israeli

    armysolidifying his connections with

    a country he had regularly visited as a

    child. In a 15-month tour, he used the en-

    forced discipline of the military to get t,

    learn to work as a team member and nd

    a higher purpose than money. Freedman

    quit the Israeli army in 2006, disturbed

    by his stint in the West Bank, to write a

    book about his experiences called Binge Trading: The Real Inside

    Story of Cash, Cocaine and Corruption in the City (Penguin, 2009).

    Freedman says City bosses push employees to take a short-

    term view on both trading and living. Youre encouraged to be

    a gambler and a risk taker, he says.

    Junor, the addict who decided to seek help rather than hang

    himself, says his addictions thrived in the City. In 1999, he wasearning 1 million a year as an analyst at BT Alex. Brown and

    enjoying boozy lunches with clients. At that point, he only dab-

    bled in cocaine.

    Everyone knew I had a drinking problem when I was in the

    City, Junor says. There were a couple of times where I showed

    up to meetings pissed, but that was Neill.

    After Deutsche Bank AG took over BT Alex. Brown in 1999,

    Junor helped establish the digital unit at Emap Plc, the U.K.

    publishing company that he had covered as an analyst. He

    began using coke heavily as he jetted between homes in Los

    Angeles, London and New York. I had a re in me that was

    alcoholism and it had an accelerant thrown on it that was co-caine, he says. Cocaine allows you to keep drinking; it sobers

    you up. He quit the publisher in 2001 and continued taking

    cocaine while living in a West London penthouse loft.

    Id go to dinner parties where the host was chopping up a big

    line of coke on the cheese board, he recalls. Cocaine is Lon-

    dons middle-class dirty secret. Its pervasive. Junor sought

    treatment in a rehab center in southwest London without suc-

    cess. Then he tried yoga and Alcoholics Anonymous, attending

    90 meetings in 90 days in 2006. Hes been clean ever since.

    Salvation came two years ago when he moved to a farm in

    Dorset, in southern England, to raise free-range chickens for a

    living. He still wakes up at 6 a.m.only instead of boarding atrain, he feeds the chickens raised in white sheds spread across

    his farm. Junor, who now earns less than 100,000 a year, has re-

    married and his new wife recently gave birth to a daughter.

    Some drug addicts hit rock bottom after losing their jobs.

    One former associate at a global law rm in Canary Wharf used

    his salary to support a decade-long cocaine habit. In January, he

    lost his job and had 30,000 in tax-free severance money with

    nothing to do all day.

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    Cocaine Capital

    *2006; includes crack cocaine users. **Percentage of population ages 16 to 59 in England and Wales

    who have used cocaine in the year. Source: United Nations




    98 00 04 07 08

    The U.K. has more users than other European nations; the numberof people taking the drug there doubled in the past decade.


    U.K.: 1,000,000

    Spain: 910,000

    Italy: 850,000

    Germany: 380,000*

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    I used lots of coke and gambled, says the lawyer, 28, who

    asked to remain anonymous. I had early onset of cocaine psy-chosis. You start to go mad. In the last three months of using, I

    saw, or imagined I saw, insects crawling on me. After an inter-

    vention from his family, the lawyer checked into a Priory detox

    clinic in London. The recovering lawyer is staying clean by going

    to daily addicts meetings.

    At the recovery facility The Causeway, a helicopter pad sits

    next to a turreted Edwardian manor house, which sports a gym,

    a 200-year-old billiard table and a recording studio. Wealthy

    City bankers take the 20-minute helicopter ride to the secluded

    400-acre (162-hectare) Osea Island and pay up to 10,000 a

    week for treatment.

    Half the referrals this month havecome in for people in the City whove

    lost their job, lost their car, everything,

    because theyve leveraged themselves

    too high, Quinn says. We had a guy

    come to the island on a helicopter, and

    he took 6 grams of cocaine on the

    20-minute journey.

    Although the major insurers, such as

    Aetna Inc., Axa SA and British United

    Provident Association Ltd., cover rehab

    programs at the Causeway and ensure

    condentiality, Quinn says clients fromthe U.K.s nancial sector are reluctant

    to claim for their treatments.

    People wont use their company in-

    surance policy for mental health or ad-

    diction for fear that it will go back to

    their employer, he says. They go sick

    for a month and pay for it themselves

    with no record of it happening.

    Moved by the scarcity of treatment choices in Britain,

    private equity executive Jon Moulton tried to establish a

    modern rehab facilityan eort thwarted by the credit crisis.

    In October 2007, his charitable foundation opened WinthropHall, a 25-room hotel-style center in the Kent countryside,

    southeast of London. Many of Winthrops patients were

    from the City: lawyers, hedge fund managers and even the

    CEO of a major foreign bank who spent a lot of time in

    the U.K.

    In January 2009, Winthrop Hall shut its doors as City job

    losses cut peoples ability to pay, says Moulton, who resigned

    as managing partner of London-based private equity rm

    Alchemy Partners LLP in September. The facility wasnt up

    and running long enough to have treatments covered by pri-

    vate insurance companies. Its one thing to spend 100 on a

    consultation for a drug or alcohol problem, he says. Its an-

    other thing to spend 800 a day on residential rehab.A company that does not oer help to deal with a drug or

    alcohol problem could face a lawsuit for wrongful dismissal if

    it res someone who has admitted an addiction, says Marco

    Martinez, a former Salomon Brothers investment banker who

    checked himself into the Priory in 2000 to treat an addiction to

    alcohol and codeine.

    The driving force for banks is fear of litigation, Martinez

    says. If someone is selling drugs to a mate on the trading oor

    and the police nd out about it, they will go after the people con-

    cerned, but theyll also go after the employer. Martinez is now

    working with Tactus, a Dutch treatment

    provider, to oer banks a new online pro-gram to deal with alcohol abuse called Hes planning

    another Web site for drug users next year.

    U.K. law requires employee consent

    for any drug testing. Although pre-

    employment urine testing is now stan-

    dard in the City, says Jason Kennedy, of

    the London-based headhunting rm

    Kennedy Associates, the screenings only

    show evidence of cocaine use in the

    previous 72 hours.

    Drug tests are usually booked days inadvance, which in theory gives a candidate

    time to clean himself up, Kennedy says,

    adding hes never had anyone fail a test.

    Bankers seeking help can nd it right

    around the corner. At the eight weekly meetings of drug addicts

    in the City, bankers talk about the daily struggle to stay clean.

    In the safety of a lunchtime Cocaine Anonymous meeting in

    St. Michaels Church, one woman with a blond bob and a fat

    string of pearls says she was terried of attending for fear of

    bumping into a bank colleague. Then I thoughtwho cares? I

    want to quit my job anyway, she says, echoing the sentiments

    of ex-City iers Junor and Freedman.Those survivors say theyre speaking out now to show thou-

    sands of anonymous addicts still working in the City that its

    possible to escape before going to the brink of suicide. Although

    Junor has lost his London townhouse and no longer drives a

    Porsche, hes regained something more valuablehis life.

    sphni b is a senior writer at Bloomberg News in [email protected] th Pnny covers European governmentin London. [email protected]

    psyhtst ph sys lhlnd dug us st f cty ultu.

    Medical people are absolutely bamboozled by the level of abuse going on in the Cityand the extreme level of cocaine consumption, says one expert in recovery treatment.

    To write a letter to the editor, yp mag or send an e-mail [email protected].