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How Substance Abuse in Lawyers Negatively Affects Clients

2 min read · 3 sections

How Substance Abuse in Lawyers Negatively Affects ClientsAmong working professionals, few occupations deal with as much stress and responsibility as lawyers. These problems often lead to overwhelming feelings and more than many individuals can handle on their own. And that sends lots of attorneys down a spiral into substance abuse and addiction.

Read on to learn about the most common problems lawyers face and how it can adversely affect their clients if they don’t get help.

Main Types of Addiction & Disorders Lawyers Struggle With

The high demands that come with being a lawyer cause many in the legal field to suffer from increased levels of stress, anxiety, and depression. A large number of these individuals end up turning to potentially harmful substances in an attempt to relax, numb the pain, and even sleep.

The most recurring issue stems from alcohol, with a large number of lawyers being considered problem drinkers. It is easily the most prevalent source of substance abuse among legal professionals. Out of the attorneys who struggle with any form of addiction, 95% of them have problems with alcoholism

Next on the list are prescription drugs like OxyContin, Valium, and other opioids. These are typically used at first for stress and other mental disorders, but their addictive nature often leads to prescription drug abuse and dependence. Illicit drugs often make their way into the mix as well including cocaine, heroin, and meth.

Clients Depend on Their Lawyers for Major Life Changes

While attorneys often use these items in an attempt to be more fit for their job, more often than not it has the opposite effect. Substance abuse often leads to issues that directly affect the friends and family members of lawyers, as well as their own clients. It can even lead to co-occurring disorders like secondary traumatic stress (STS), which cause attorneys to feel directly impacted by their clients’ issues.²

Legal clients count on lawyers to manage multiple aspects of their lives that can have long-lasting results on their well-being. This management includes that of people ranging from young children to elderly senior citizens.

Oftentimes, a person’s life may solely rest on their attorney’s shoulders whether this means keeping them out of prison or even off of death row. The pressure that stems from this heightened responsibility pushes many legal professionals to seek out means to relieve the stress and intimidation of the job.

Unfortunately, many lawyers resort to alcohol and drugs to cope with the responsibility. This substance abuse ends up negatively affecting court cases due to their inability to stay focused or fully dedicate their minds to the process.

Avoiding Problems for Clients that Come from Substance Abuse in Lawyers

Most lawyers are recommended to take continuing legal education (CLE) programs to stay up-to-date on the mental disorders that can arise during their time as a lawyer. This offers insight into ways they can prevent the issues before they happen. But if they fall into these bad habits, it’s important for them to get help.

There is a legitimate fear for attorneys struggling with substance abuse to seek treatment for their addiction. They may worry about losing their job, losing their license to practice law, or even losing their family. But the consistent use of drugs and alcohol tend to lead to those results more often than the former.

Learn more about the connection between substance abuse and lawyers to know the best way to help them.


  1. Legal Profession Assistance Conference. Drug and Alcohol Abuse & Addiction in the Legal Profession.
  2. Secondary Trauma. What Is Secondary Trauma?.

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