Lawyers and Addiction to Drugs and Alcohol

Even though men and women in the legal profession are often subjects of jokes by the general public, they are known for their hard work and intelligence in sorting out complex legal issues.

With the high stress levels associated with their careers, lawyers are known to push themselves above and beyond their physical and mental limits.

Similar to other high-stress careers (such as emergency first responders, police officers, doctors, et cetera) lawyers also tend to resort to unhealthy habits to cope with job-related stress and anxieties.

Specifically, addiction to alcohol in combination with depression and anxiety are more common in the legal professionals than in others.

Another factor to consider is that legal professionals also suffer from extremely high levels of mental health issues. It has been reported that 40% of law students suffer from depression just after the first year of law school. This impact is said to continue throughout law school and into their careers.

Considering the frequency and quantities of alcohol consumption, a study by the American Bar Association involved 12,825 licensed and employed lawyers in 19 states around the US.

Results based on the lawyers’ anonymous responses to a questionnaire reveled that as high as 28 percent suffer from depression, and 19 percent exhibit symptoms of anxiety.

Given the nature of how the legal system works, it is a common understanding that lawyers who argue cases in the court find that they have to compromise their ethical and moral values, creating an inner conflict. They may also have to take positions that are contrary to their belief system and defend people they think are guilty.

Addiction in the legal profession is a giant problem that unfortunately had put an end to many promising careers and lives.  

Taking steps to addressing mental health and stress related triggers early on in the law school is an important consideration.

Attaining work-life balance is very hard for people in the legal profession. This is especially true in the case of junior lawyers who typically don’t have control over their schedules and workload.

An indirect factor for the stress is said to be the high levels of debt accumulated during law school. This burden could be a limiting factor when the graduating young lawyers make their career decisions. However, these young professionals need to realize that their well-being is tied to keeping themselves physically and mentally healthy.

Fortunately, several treatment options in a private and confidential environment are available.

Rehab and Addiction Treatment for Legal Professionals

A majority of lawyers and other legal professionals routinely deal with ethical conflicts in addition to unusually high levels of workload in high-pressure, competitive workplaces.

This intense professional environment is attributed to the general impression among the public of a ‘drunk lawyer’. Surveys confirm that the rates of alcohol abuse in the legal profession are among the highest of any career in North America.

Since lawyers are also highly paid professionals, it can be assumed that they get timely treatment for their addiction problems.

However, the biggest barrier to getting addiction treatment is said to be the belief among the lawyers that admitting they had a problem could bring a bad reputation, damage their image in the society and essentially ruin their very career. They may also be afraid of colleagues in their law firm finding out about their problems.

These barriers to seeking the essential timely help calls for treatment options that can maintain a high degree of confidentiality and privacy.

For legal professionals, specialized services have been the most effective in treating addiction. The first step is overcoming the fears and asking for help.

International Lawyers in Alcoholics Anonymous is a group of recovered lawyers and judges carrying the message of recovery within the legal profession. Their main role is to act as a bridge between the legal professionals who are reluctant to seek help or in denial and the Alcoholics Anonymous.

Experiences from the 12-step program of the Alcoholics Anonymous demonstrated that lawyers and judges are worried about their anonymity if they attend the program. Even when they get over denying that they have a substance abuse problem, they are still reluctant to be seen publicly by attending the meetings.

If you are a legal professional feeling the overwhelming demands at work, it is advisable that you speak with your supervisor or a trusted mentor.  This is the most effective first step you can take.

Many employers are committed to the physical and mental well-being if their employees and will be ready to help address the concerns. Additionally, a number of other recovery resources are also available – such as paid time off or company-funded addiction treatment.

In parallel, it is important to open up to a family member or friend who will be able to advise you. This will help relieve stress and serve as a support system. To sort out the treatment options, you should schedule a substance abuse evaluation with a counselor.