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Cocaine Addiction in Corporate America: Helping Yourself or Your Loved One

The prevalence and impact of cocaine addiction in corporate America have been well documented, both in pop culture and actual institutional research. Most of us are familiar with the cartoonish depiction of the “coked out” Wall Street executive going 100 miles per hour all the time. These images have endured since the 80s and, while the addiction prevention and enforcement focus has understandably shifted toward opioids and heroin, cocaine has remained present in corporate America, affecting all levels of professionals from entry-level employees to C-Suite professionals. If you or someone you care about is part of this corporate cocaine culture, it’s only a matter of time before the party ends and the addiction starts. Learn more about why you may be vulnerable and how you can get help.

Corporate Cocaine Abuse in 2021: What’s the Story?

While the severity of cocaine addiction in corporate America has ebbed and flowed over the past few decades, abuse of powder cocaine in the finance industry has seen a resurgence over the past year across the globe; a phenomenon that, unsurprisingly, was spurred on by the pandemic. Workers have been more stressed than ever before because of fear of losing their jobs, working excessive hours to make sure they perform above expectations, the anxiety over the possibility that they or their loved ones may catch the virus and many other factors. Another contributing factor has been isolation and lack of accountability to a daily office schedule. International researchers and addiction advocates have seen similar phenomena.

The problem is also compounded by increased rates of addiction to other stimulants, like Adderall, over the past ten years.

What Drives Stimulant and Cocaine Abuse in Corporate America? 

To understand where corporate cocaine abuse takes root, it’s important to understand the user’s journey. Industries like finance promise big(ger) money to competent entry-level professionals, and graduating seniors appear to know it:

  • Investment banking analysts at significant firms can expect total compensation approaching $200,000 in their first year out of college.
  • JPMorgan took in nearly 50,000 applications for about 400 internship positions at its investment banking program this year.
  • Goldman Sachs saw a 50% increase in applications for its investment banking analyst program this year compared with 2018.
  • The University of Pennsylvania reports that the number of outgoing seniors who choose to work on Wall Street has remained at 30% since 2015.

Finance is unique in its opportunity for quick payouts but also distinct in the culture it takes to sustain the energy to be successful.

Six Figures, Sixty Hours: The Price of Prosperity in Corporate Culture

Corporate America’s work-hard-play-hard culture is palpable and attracts people who are willing to work dozens of extra hours a week to get ahead. When was the last time you heard of any C-Suite executive or mid-level investment banker working a traditional 40-hour workweek? While this may not come as any surprise, the United States is officially the most overworked developed nation in the world, and has been for a long time, with many entry-level financial professionals working somewhere between 60-100 hours per week.

So, here’s the recipe: you take a 22-year-old fresh out of college, give them over $100,000 a year and give them a schedule that takes them away from their friends and families and keeps them awake for hours on end. How do they cope? How do they perform? How do they meet expectations? Very often, they use drugs and alcohol to cope. After a while, this substance use becomes co-mingled with their progress at work and their very survival. Eventually, it takes over everything in their lives, including their careers.

To make matters worse, they are very often only able to associate with their colleagues outside of working hours because they’re the only ones that share their insane schedule, perpetually feeding into the toxic culture.

Escaping Addiction in Corporate America and Getting Help

If you or your loved one are locked in a workplace culture where substance use is present, you don’t have to choose between your career and your mental health. People often feel like speaking up about things at their company or admitting that they need a break is a sign of weakness or betrayal, but it’s really a matter of survival. Start by telling yourself these things:

  • You’re not meant to work 100 hours per week.
  • It’s not OK to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol.
  • You’re entitled to a work-life balance.
  • You’re not betraying anyone if you speak up for yourself.
  • Your boss or supervisors deserves to know what’s going on.
  • Life is more than just your career.
  • This is completely unsustainable and will eventually lead to you losing your job, anyway.

Don’t worry about looking weak or “blowing it” or “not being able to hack it.” Don’t worry about being judged by your co-workers or peers. Worry about your own mental health. Don’t let work or money define you. It takes strength and courage to admit you need help for substance use. 

When You’re Ready…

Recovery Unplugged offers all levels of addiction treatment to professionals who find themselves battling substance use due to workplace culture. Our employee assistance program (EAP) works with companies in all industries to provide education on workplace substance use and to help addicted employees once again become vibrant and productive professionals.

Recovery Unplugged is in-network with most major insurance companies and provides medically supervised detox and withdrawal management, as wells as comprehensive behavioral rehab to help you overcome your addiction. Our therapists are trained to help you battle the mental health issues that often accompany a high-stress professional life and are ready to help you. Don’t wait until it’s too late to seek help for substance use. Your job isn’t worth losing your life over, and you don’t have to become a casualty of addiction in corporate America.

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