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Shari Allen, PharmD, BCPP
Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine – School of Pharmacy

On the surface The Wolf of Wall Street is a movie based on a true story about a man and his love for money and power. But the movie is actually a great learning opportunity on various psychiatric conditions namely personality disorders and substance induced conditions.

Money, greed, drugs and sex sums up the 179 minute running time of The Wolf of Wall Street. Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) always had a dream of being rich and the way to reach that dream was being a stockbroker on Wall Street. Initially he has an innocence about him, you believe that he legitimately wants to help his clients while helping himself as well. After an awakening lunch with his first boss, Mark Hanna (Matthew McConaughey) he realizes the way to personal and quick success on Wall Street isn’t about helping the client, it is about doing whatever you can to help yourself which usually involves an elaborate lie and selling the client a false sense of hope. This method of success appears to work for Jordan Belfort, until it doesn’t. After an article profiling Jordan in Forbes Magazine, the FBI is keeping a close eye on him and eventually he’ll get caught but until then he’ll continue to experiment with more drugs, lie to more people, and “earn” more money. As the viewer, you want to dislike Jordan for his deceiving ways but in some ways he is actually smart, or at least he does a good job at making you think so. His behavior reminds me of patients who are so intelligent but they use their gifts in ways that are ultimately harmful to themselves or others.

Jordan has some Cluster B personality traits, in particular antisocial personality disorder. He has a need for personal gain and power, these things help Jordan to feel better about himself.  He has a lack of empathy towards others. Jordan will do whatever it takes, including hurting and misusing others, to improve upon himself and get what he feels he deserves out of life. He is a master manipulator.

The use of drugs is very prominent throughout the movie. In addition to the abuse of stimulants, benzodiazepines, alcohol, and cocaine, the drug of choice in the movie was Quaaludes (methaqualone). From a learning perspective Jordan thoroughly explains the pharmacodynamic effects of this drug including the onset, duration, and adverse effects. The viewer is also able to see and learn about the withdrawal of these substances. He explains the concept of tolerance. Jordan and his business partner Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill) get access to Lemmon Quaaludes 714, which according to Jordan is “Four times more potent than anything we’ve ever had before”. While they were expecting a grand effect, nothing occurred and they each thought because of their frequent prior drug use, they’d gained a tolerance to drugs. They were wrong, the onset was just delayed by 90 minutes and their potency and effect was clearly greater than anything they’d experienced before. 

Eventually Jordan Belfort was caught and spent 22 months in prison for fraud. One of the greater lessons learned in The Wolf of Wall Street is that of recovery. Despite his past criminal ways, Jordan turned his life around and now earns a living as a legitimate and successful motivational speaker

Jason White, PharmD Candidate 2015
Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine - School of Pharmacy

The Wolf of Wall Street is a hybrid comedy-drama set in the 1980s and 1990s about Jordan Belfort, a stock broker in New York City who lost his job and later makes a fortune creating a brokerage firm. The firm is given the respectable name of “Stratton Oakmont” to cover its pump and dump scams involving cheap stocks inflated to higher prices so the brokers can sell the stocks at a high price. The story is told from his perspective and details his rise to a fortune, his drug abuse, and fall.

Within the first few minutes of the movie, Belfort introduced his lifestyle with: “I take Quaaludes 10-15 times a day for my ‘back pain’, Adderall to stay focused, Xanax to take the edge off, pot to mellow me out, cocaine to wake me back up again, and morphine... Well, because it's awesome.” Money in the movie is portrayed as an impulsive, addictive drug. He goes on to say that his favorite drug is actually money, because of all the things it can do for you. The main characters also cannot stop doing illegal activities to make cash, even though they were making more money than they “even knew what to do with.”

Over the course of the movie, Belfort continues to make mistake after mistake, but he feels invincible due to his wealth and due to the drugs he takes. At one point he tries to bribe an FBI agent to stop the ongoing investigations into his company. The drug abuse in the film highlights the toxic lifestyle addiction creates. Few things matter to a drug addict in the world except for the drugs they take. An addict can have everything: money, fame, family, friends and more and still give it all up to stay high. Belfort never fails to continue buying and taking drugs, even though he knows what he does while on drugs. The biggest example was Belfort driving a car while on Quaaludes. This drug addiction also plays into his sexual promiscuity, which he displays throughout the movie.

Eventually it takes a couple of disasters to turn Belfort around. His yacht capsizes and the plane sent to pick him up crashes. Afterwards, he sobers up and tries to make “an honest living” making infomercials. His past misdeeds still caught up to him and he ultimately landed in jail. After getting out of jail, he hosts seminars on sales techniques.

In the end, people’s lives are dictated by the choices they make. Belfort’s decision to abuse drugs was not his downfall so much as his addiction to money, but it was a significant contributor to ruining many aspects of his life nonetheless. Belfort’s income, his drug problem introduced by his best friend, and his social support system encouraging the use of drugs all created the perfect storm that he would not seek relief from until he hit rock bottom. Unfortunately for many substance abusers, rock bottom is usually what it takes to quit.

Quintin Buford, PharmD Candidate 2015
Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine – School of Pharmacy

The Wolf of Wall Street is a movie about greed, sex, money, and drugs dominating the lives of a company of New York stockbrokers. This story, directed by Martin Scorsese, surrounds the life of Jordan Belfort, a middle-class stockbroker, seeking a way to make his way to the top of Wall Street by any means necessary. He started out by working for a well renowned stock exchange firm at which he was mentored by a seasoned colleague of his (played by Matthew McConaughey). Through him, he was able to learn some of the tricks of the trade as well as pick up some of his bad habits. One of these preposterous activities included snorting cocaine, which his mentor almost portrayed to be necessary to partake in to make it through the day-to-day life of a stockbroker. After the stock market crash of 1987, Jordan was laid off and forced to seek a daily living elsewhere. Upon doing so, he stumbled upon a penny stock exchange firm that was much less accomplished than his previous occupational establishment. He went on to turn this company around, becoming the head of it and changing its name to Stratton Oakmont. This eventually multi-million-dollar company ultimately employed hundreds of stockbrokers and became an empire on Wall Street. This company thrived through artificial inflations of stock prices and selling them to investors, after which the value of the stocks dropped, causing the investors to lose their money. Everything is fine in the life of Jordan and his firm until the FBI investigates, indicts, and eventually charges Jordan for money laundering and security fraud. These charges landed him 2 years in prison and necessitated the repayment of several millions of dollars to those investors who were hoodwinked by him.

A common theme in this movie and the one thing that eventually led to Jordan’s downfall was drug usage. Jordan picked up this illegal habit from his previous job and expanded upon it in his own company, spreading it like a wildfire throughout his firm. From cocaine to Quaaludes to excessive alcohol consumption, Jordan and his colleagues were very open with their drug usage and almost encouraged others within the company to participate in these outrageous activities on a day-to-day basis. These illegal operations took place at work as well as on the many flights and parties they would attend. Their drug addictions became so abominable that they felt as though they needed them to function and often combined several drugs sequentially or even simultaneously at times. Not only were Jordan and his company addicted to drugs, they were also addicted to sex. Having sex in their work building was done very frequently and welcomed with open arms by Jordan and his associates. Not only was he perverted but several of his employees followed in his footsteps. From sex in the office, to sex at company parties, to their many sex related jokes throughout the movie, Jordan and his crew were truly a load of sex-craved stockbrokers that had no filter on their mouths as well as their actions in public. Jordan’s addictions led to him crashing a helicopter in his backyard, breaking up with his girlfriend and wife, as well as the eventual fall of his Roman Empire. As Jordan began to detox towards the end of the movie, it was obvious that though many of his personality traits were still there and he really did not regret committing any of his wrong-doings, his mood did began to stabilize more so than it had been while he was heavily on drugs. This movie is a true testament as to how money, drug abuse, and sex addiction can take over the lives of even the highest individuals in society, regardless of their social status, and eventually lead to the corruption of their minds as well as the overall destruction of their lives.

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