Connections Between Stress and Substance Abuse in Lawyers
Becoming a lawyer offers people a professional work environment, an opportunity to help others, and significant financial benefits. They hold the prestige that comes with impressive degrees and what some may consider a glamorous lifestyle. All in all, many people grow up wanting to be a lawyer.
But legal professionals also work in one of the most competitive, stressful, and time-consuming industries in the world. They work long hours throughout the week and often hold the future of at least one person in their hands at any given time. Hobbies and personal life often fall by the wayside due to the job’s demand, leaving any remaining free time feeling lonely and empty. These factors often take an emotional toll on a person’s mind and body, leading to a high rate of substance abuse in lawyers. Let’s take a brief look at what these individuals go through and how those struggling with addiction can get help.
Emotional Strain Can Start in Law School
Did you know a staggering 96% of law students consider themselves significantly stressed?¹ On top of that, 34% of them deal with depression during their second semester of law school. And this number rises as each year progresses, eventually reaching numbers as high as 40% by the third year.
Between the weight of the workload and the never-ending competitive atmosphere, it’s not entirely surprising the emotional strain leaves many students resorting to alcohol and drugs. As many of these substances help with sleep, anxiety, and depression, they’re often used as a temporary escape from the real world. Unfortunately, many of them end up developing a dependency and craving for these items on a daily basis.
Coping with Personal Conflict and Legal Duties
A study recently conducted by the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation reported that 21% of employed attorneys are struggling with alcohol addiction.² This high level of substance abuse in lawyers often stems from moral dilemmas in their job. Many individuals who are struggling with their career in a legal profession are turning to drugs and alcohol as a way to combat the fact that many of their daily practices go against their personal beliefs.
While they may feel something is wrong or unfair, they understand the law takes precedence in this profession. And the stress that comes with constantly opposing their own views frequently pushes lawyers to cover up the negative feelings with things like opioids and drinking.
Helping Lawyers Struggling with Addiction
Working consistently long hours in a cutthroat industry known for its high stress level are only a few of the reasons for the higher rate of substance abuse in lawyers. The difficult career coupled with the disease of addiction tends to lead individuals in the legal field down even darker paths. But the situation is far from a hopeless one.
If you know a lawyer or someone else in a legal profession who is struggling with alcohol, drugs, or the emotional strain of their job, relief can be found in treatments centers all over the country. Motivate them to seek out this help and find comfort from stress and depression.
- Dave Nee Foundation. Lawyers & Depression.
- Krill, Patrick R. JD, LLM; Johnson, Ryan MA; Albert, Linda MSSW. January/February 2016. Journal of Addiction Medicine: Volume 10 – Issue 1 – p 46–52