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The History of Drug Use on Wall Street

Drug Use Wall Street

Wall Street has been connected to the world of illicit drugs for many decades, with traders using all kinds of stimulants and narcotics in order to keep themselves going and to handle the pressure of trading with millions of dollars every single day. This is a trope that has been used in countless dramas about Wall Street, but it’s something that really does exist and something that is refusing to go away.


This was the height of drug use on Wall Street as this was when the yuppy culture really began to take hold and when cocaine was at its most popular. Wall Street took to the drug immediately and it quickly became its favorite drug. Before the drug was a favorite with street users it was a big hit with high society and with bankers.

The drug gave them the confidence they needed to sell and to compete. It gave them the focus they needed to work long hours. It basically turned them into the ultimate traders, albeit for a short time. Because as soon as abuse and addiction took hold the negatives came out and the spiral into chaos that we have witnessed in films like Wolf of Wall Street began.

Marijuana use was also popular in the 1970s. It wasn’t the sort of drug that would give them the focus and energy they needed, but they could use it to counter the effects of the cocaine. Everyone needs sleep after all, even bankers.


Quaaludes were the drug of choice for many bankers in the 1980s. These pills were outlawed in the middle of the decade, but they merely shifted to the black market where they became popular with bankers looking to drown their emotions.

Cocaine use also continued into this decade. It was still just as popular and it continued to keep those traders on their feet from morning until night. This is also when everyone began to associate the drug with Wall Street and when the stereotype of the coke addicted, yuppy banker was born.


This was the decade of prescription drugs for Wall Street. GHB, which is a major depressant that can cause severe memory loss, became popular. They would take it to zone out and forget their troubles. It didn’t take the place of cocaine, as the stimulant was still being used by traders and bankers the world over, but it took the place of alcohol and marijuana, which means they used it to zone out at the end of the day.

This was also the decade of the prescription stimulant, with Ritalin gaining in popularity. Ecstasy was used as well. It had grown in popularity on the club scene and bankers began using it for much the same reasons as well.

2000s to Now

While many drugs have fallen out of favor with bankers on Wall Street, a few have remained. Cocaine is still there and is as big of a problem as it has always been. Ritalin has also been phased out, but this one has been replaced by Adderall, which works in a similar way.

MDMA, which is a pure, crystalized form of Ecstasy, also became popular from 2010 onwards. It was seen to be cleaner and purer than the tablet form. It also lasts longer than cocaine and provides a stimulating effect, but unlike cocaine, it can make the user considerably more emotional and empathetic, which isn’t always a desired effect in a ruthless banker.

Legal Drugs

Throughout all of those time periods mentioned above, a certain number of legal drugs have also been used frequently. Strong coffee (try this website) has been a regular feature, with even the non-drug users drinking plenty of the black stuff to get them through the day. For several decades, cigarettes were also very common, as was alcohol.

It seems that for a long period of time even the traders who weren’t relying on narcotics to get through were still consuming large quantities of legal drugs to get by, using stimulants like caffeine and nicotine to get though the day and to destress, and using drugs like alcohol to help them wind down on an evening and forget their issues.

It’s fair to say that this is not the healthiest profession in the world, but the good news is that all of that seems to be changing. There are fewer drugs, less drink, and these days it seems like very few people actually smoke.

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