Managing harmful addictions in finance

Two experts talk about how employers can identify and help the increasing number of high-functioning addicts in the financial services sector
by Lauren Johnson, CISI copywriter

Watch the full video on CISI TV

Daytime drinking was common practice amongst working professionals in the 1980s and 1990s in the City of London. Since then, alcohol consumption has diminished but the use of other addictive drugs has increased.

People with a substance use disorder who are still able to manage their daily activities are known as high-functioning addicts, and they are a demographic that the two experts in our webinar on ‘Managing harmful addictions in finance’ want firms to be aware of.

CISI director and CEO at London Reporting House, Daniel Corrigan MCSI, talks on CISI TV to two experts from medical consultancy BWR Synergy Health, which works with HR departments, directors, and managers to support strategy development and provide educational workshops and resources. Treatment director Michael Rawlinson, who is responsible for therapeutic psychosocial programmes, and medical director Simone Yule, who focuses on medical detox adoption, talk about substance abuse – how to spot it and how to save a life.

We sum up some of the key points from the talk.

Avoid negative discourse

Alcohol dependency is a medical condition, says Michael, as addiction has a direct effect on the brain’s neural pathways. Nobody chooses to become addicted, he says. We need to recognise and avoid negative discourse, which can have a strong impact on the number of people who come forward for treatment.

He speaks of the importance of reducing the stigma around addiction, which will make it more likely that those suffering will seek help. We can help achieve this by avoiding using words like ‘alcoholic’ and ‘alcoholism’, instead using the term ‘alcohol use disorder’ to acknowledge that addiction is an illness. Michael warns that noticing and pointing out a change in someone’s behaviour can encourage the substance abuse cycle. For example, the recipient of such a comment may feel a sense of shame which is a “powerful human emotion that we really do our best to try and avoid”, he says. Often the way someone would cope with this is by returning to the substance.

Avoid using words like ‘alcoholic’ and ‘alcoholism’ On a more positive note, he says the stigma around addiction is gradually reducing because of more people talking about it and the language around addiction changing so that people feel safe to come forward and ask for help more easily. And firms can observe key signs like behaviour, work productivity, and appearance, to then work on a strategy around prevention and early intervention.

Simone also highlights the importance of seeking help and opening up conversations.
Assess the damage

It is important to also consider the long-term effects that drug abuse can have on the mind and the body. Simone says that the harms of alcohol dependence are “widespread” but “poorly understood”. For example, the liver can recover from the effects of short-term alcohol use, but continued drinking can result in cirrhosis of the liver through the breaking down of acetaldehyde, a chemical that kills cells. Other long-term effects include stomach ulcers, oesophageal viruses, and bleeding to death. We are also seeing newly identified conditions such as alcoholic dementia, says Simone.

But we can do something about it. Joining a medical detox programme is one of them and this may involve a social, cultural, and physical assessment to identify the triggers and level of damage, and finally determine the best course of action. You can choose how to take courses like these without disturbing your daily routines.

Road to recovery

Daniel summarises one key message: people can be treated and they can recover. Simone says that the hardest part comes after completing treatment. The focus here should be on what she calls ’recovery capital’, which involves considering how to stay well. A holistic approach to recovery includes personal time, a careful diet and exercise.

The human touch

In the closing stages of the talk, Michael highlights that the way victims can fully recover is through developing fundamental human connections, working on the relationship they have with themselves and with others. This can be done through talking therapies alongside a detox programme such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous. Considering that alcohol use disorder is “an illness of isolation”, an addict could be helped through connection with others, he says.

The overarching message for firms is to promote constructive and open communication around addictions and to form a strategy that meets the needs of those suffering. A willingness to help has to come from the top. Seeking and receiving help from early on can bring effective and lasting changes.

Published: 20 Mar 2023
  • Training, Competence and Culture
  • high-functioning addict
  • drugs
  • alcohol use disorder
  • alcohol
  • addictions in finance
  • addiction

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