The Problem Of Substance Abuse Among Lawyers

The Problem Of Substance Abuse Among Lawyers

The Problem Of Substance Abuse Among Lawyers

A law practice often entails serving clients who are mired in a potentially bad situation. The most obvious example is criminal law where almost every case has the potential to send someone to jail or prison and deprive them of their liberty. In extreme circumstances, the consequences of a criminal charge may be life imprisonment or even death.

Holding individuals’ fate and future in their hands is an enormously burdensome and stressful process that demands extensive focus and attention to detail while leaving little room for mistake. This kind of pressure on a daily basis may lead to problems with depression, anxiety, and stress. Unfortunately, attorneys often choose to find comfort in a bottle of alcohol, prescription drugs, or a mixture of both.

According to reports, depression affects 16 million American adults, which is 6.7% of the United States population or approximately one in fourteen Americans. It is significant that almost half of those diagnosed with depression tend to become involved with some type of substance abuse. Of even more interest to lawyers, especially young lawyers, is that these statistics as they pertain to attorneys are even more substantial.

Almost half of attorneys suffer from some depression during their legal careers. And one in ten of these individuals states that they have even considered suicide on at least one occasion. Sadly, most cases of substance abuse by attorneys may be directly attributed to the stress and depression caused by their daily legal practice.

A recent study conducted by the ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs and the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation indicated that nearly 21% of lawyers and other legal professionals were considered problem drinkers. When researchers asked participants more specific questions, this number rose to over 36% who reported problems with alcohol. Thus, one in three attorneys struggles with alcohol abuse. Nearly half of the lawyers in the study stated that their drinking issues began within the period they started law school and into their first 15 years of practice.

Attorneys’ problems with prescription drug abuse have risen commensurately, especially because of uncomplicated access, typically through legal acquisition with a doctor’s note. Although prescription drug abuse is not as common as alcohol addiction, one in ten attorneys reports suffering from this type of substance abuse. Prescription drugs are commonly used by lawyers who are either burning the midnight oil or are trying to sleep or reduce stress and tension. Often, the most serious problems with substance abuse arise when alcohol is mixed with prescription drugs, causing greater risks of dependency and more serious physical harm, even death, from an overdose.

And these are just the reported numbers, which don’t even address illegal drug use. Most people, including lawyers, are unwilling to admit using narcotics or other drugs that are illegal.

In addition, there is a hesitancy amongst lawyers to seek treatment for fear of action against their law license by their state bar. Lawyers also express fear of being seen as weak or unfit to practice should they be seen at AA meetings or a treatment center.

Fortunately, there are a number of options for attorneys to seek help that is confidential. In California, The Other Bar is a network of recovering lawyers, judges and law students throughout the state, dedicated to assisting others within the profession who are suffering from alcohol and substance abuse problems.

In addition, there are a multitude of treatment options available for all individuals, including attorneys, who are dealing with alcohol or drug addiction resulting from depression, stress, or anxiety. Treatment centers may be found throughout California and all over the United States. If you look for it, help exists.

At CDTA, The California Desert Trial Academy is a 21st Century law school tailored to meet the needs of working people. Any lawyer must study and know the law. We believe that practical experience in tandem with legal knowledge is the best road to a successful, rewarding, and prosperous legal career. At CDTA, we train, educate, and develop students to be exceptional attorneys and trial advocates. Call us today at (760) 342-0900 or find out more online here.

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