Drug tests plan for Liffe traders

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The Independent Online

Traders in one of the City's most highly-pressured markets could face random tests as part of a £500,000 campaign to help those who use illegal drugs to cope with job stress.

The high-earning, high-living traders of the London International Financial Futures Exchange (Liffe) can earn millions, but their fortunes turn on split-second timing and many are burned out by the age of 30.

The futures exchange was playing down the potential problem last night, but says that money from a £500,000 "environmental enhancement" budget will be spent on counselling to help those with substance abuse problems.

Several leading securities traders and banks already screen employees for signs of drug abuse and Liffe is expected to do the same.

John Foley, operations manager of Liffe, said: "Our members are like any group of young people in the land except a lot tend to be richer and are therefore more open to the temptation of drug abuse." He said the scheme may include regular medical check-ups and health advice.

But it is also designed to avert the risk of potential legal action from employees who claim to be driven into drugs by the pressures of work.

Mr Foley said that few traders used drugs to improve their performance on the frenetic trading floor, where contracts worth billions of pounds are turned over each day.

Several traders said they had never heard of anyone trying to improve his income in the futures market by "powdering his nose".

Nevertheless, Mr Foyle admits he is worried that the intense stress of working in one of the busiest markets in the City may lead many young traders to take drugs during leisure hours.

The successful claim by a social worker last year that his heavy workload lead to a nervous breakdown has forced the exchange to re-assess the services and support which it offers to 500 employees and 2,500 traders.

The number of prosecutions and cautions for drugs offences in the City of London reached 340 in 1993, a three-fold increase on 1989.

"We do not seem to have a larger drug problem than anyone else," said Superintendent Frank Hooley of the City of London police, who recently mounted a successful operation against drug suppliers who were targetting the financial community.

"But unfortunately wherever you find money you will often find drugs."