Addiction & Substance Misuse in the Finance Industry

The financial industry has a reputation as being a high drug use industry, particularly due to its portrayal in the media. Our guide will explain how common substance misuse is in the financial industry, why it occurs, and how to get help for yourself or a loved one struggling with substance use disorders.

How Common Is Substance Misuse in the Financial Industry?

Addiction demographics and the overall figures regarding rates of substance use disorders and substance misuse in the financial services and investment industry are actually surprisingly lower than many may expect.

According to most recent available data provided by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) for the period covering 2008 to 2012:

  • Over all of the occupations surveyed by SAMHSA, the average rate of individuals diagnosed with a substance use disorder was 9.5 percent.
  • The percentage of individuals diagnosed with a substance use disorder in the finance and insurance industries was 9.4 percent, equivalent to the overall average.
  • Over all of the occupations surveyed, in the financial services industry 7.4 percent of individuals reported heavy alcohol use during the month prior to the survey.
  • Over all the occupations surveyed, in the financial services and insurance industry 6.5 percent of individuals reported using illicit drugs in the month prior to the survey.

Substance Misuse Among Investment Bankers and Financial Managers

Numerous sources report that substance misuse in the financial services sector has declined significantly overall compared to earlier decades such as the 1970s, 1980s, and even the 1990s. According to these sources, the industry has gone through several phases where certain types of drug use were popular.

  • Cocaine use was popular in the 1970s. Cocaine is still used today; however, its use is most likely primarily restricted to individuals who have been using it for relatively lengthy periods of time.
  • Marijuana is still a popular drug among workers in all industries. However, cannabis products are not a major issue in the financial services sector.
  • The use of Quaaludes was popular in the 1980s through the 1990s, but is no longer a significant issue.
  • GHB, ecstasy, and Ritalin achieved some popularity in the 1990s, but these drugs are not common drugs of abuse currently.
  • Adderall and Molly (a newer form of ecstasy) are still common among younger individuals in the financial services industry today; however, they do not have the widespread use that is commonly depicted. Stimulant drugs like Adderall are often used to help individuals concentrate for lengthy periods of time and remain awake at work, whereas drugs like ecstasy and Molly are often used in clubs. Their use may actually be linked to behaviors that occur in college students and younger individuals.
  • There are reports that the stimulant Provigil (modafinil) has also become popular among younger individuals on Wall Street.
  • Older individuals in the financial services industry may have slightly higher rates of prescription drug misuse, like narcotic medications. However, these reports are mostly anecdotal.
  • Alcohol use is present in the financial services industry, as it is in all industries. According to SAMHSA, alcohol use disorders are by far the most common substance use disorders in the United States. Even individuals with other substance use disorders often have co-occurring issues with alcohol misuse.

What Causes Substance Misuse in the Financial Industry?

The book Alcohol and Illicit Drug Use in the Workforce and Workplace reports that occupations with high rates of substance use and misuse are often also associated with:

  • Routine, boring, and unfulfilling work.
  • Significant stress, such as pressure to perform.
  • A significant personal commitment that one’s work performance is a defining feature of who they view themselves to be and how they judge their perception of their self-worth.
  • An environment where drug and alcohol use are considered to be normal or is encouraged, is an appropriate coping mechanism, or an appropriate means of recreation or socialization.
  • Individuals with substance use disorders often have histories of alcohol or drug use that started relatively early in adolescences or young adulthood.
  • A co-occurring psychological condition, such as depression or anxiety.

Professionals such as investment bankers, brokers, etc., are at a high risk for stress, disappointment, an unbalanced personal and professional life, and the development of psychological issues. While the industry has overall rates of substance use disorders that are not significantly higher when compared to other professions, some of the more high-level professionals may suffer from these issues, and this may increase the risk for them to develop issues with substance misuse.

Signs of Substance Misuse in the Financial Sector

Several specific types of behaviors and signs occurring at work might signal the presence of a potential substance misuse issue. While warning signs may indicate that someone is struggling with misuse or addiction, only a qualified healthcare professional can make a formal diagnosis of substance use disorder.

Some warning signs that may indicate that a person is misusing drugs or alcohol include:

  • Increased absenteeism.
  • Variations in work performance that may alternate between instances of high productivity followed by instances of low productivity.
  • Uncharacteristic inability to make appointments or meet deadlines.
  • Blaming others for mistakes.
  • Increasing confrontations with coworkers or clients.
  • Memory lapses or issues with attention.
  • Deterioration in work performance.
  • Periodic issues with hygiene.
  • Personality changes that include mood swings, issues with impulse control, depression, etc.

Getting Help for Substance Misuse

Recognizing the initial symptoms of substance misuse can go a long way in helping an individual to get into recovery. If you or someone you know is struggling with substance misuse or addiction to alcohol or drugs, there is help available.

Call our helpful and knowledgeable admissions navigators at to learn more about our different types of addiction treatment, how to start treatment, or to have your questions answered about insurance plans that cover rehab.

If you’re not ready to start inpatient rehab in New Jersey, or want more information about other options, there are additional resources that can help you out:

  • Professional Resources: Addiction treatment centers, like Sunrise House, offer resource guides to help co-workers, family, and friends learn about addiction and how to help someone access the treatment they need.
  • Employee Assistance Programs: Because of the recognition that substance misuse in the workplace is a serious issue in many professions, many organizations offer their own sources of assistance for their employees, known as EAPs. These sources are often focused on protecting the individual’s privacy as well as offering them assistance. These resources will vary according to the specific organization.
  • Narcotics Anonymous (NA): Narcotics Anonymous is a social support group that assists individuals who have issues with drugs.
  • Alcoholics Anonymous (AA): Alcoholics Anonymous is a 12-Step organization that is primarily focused on alcohol use disorders, but often accepts individuals with any form of substance use disorder.
  • NIDA: The National Institute on Drug Abuse offers numerous brochures and resources that can be useful for individuals who are interested in finding treatment programs.
  • ASAM: The American Society of Addiction Medicine is a good source of information for individuals interested in understanding addiction or finding assistance.
  • SAMHSA: The SAMHSA Treatment Locator Tool can help people find local treatment options. They can also be reached at 1-800-662-HELP.

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