Substance Abuse Treatment Options for Lawyers
According to a recent study by the Journal of Addiction Medicine, 21% of working lawyers are considered problem drinkers.¹ Beyond that, 28% of them struggle with depression while up to 70% of legal malpractice issues are associated with substance abuse.
Even the American Bar Association has actively addressed their continuing concerns about drug abuse among attorneys.²
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction to alcohol, painkillers, or illicit drugs like cocaine or heroin, there are some great options available to get help. Let’s take a look at details about why many attorneys don’t get help for their addictions, as well as options for substance abuse treatment for lawyers.
Reasons Lawyers Don’t Get Help for Their Addiction
While it may seem like a simple answer of embarrassment, there are quite a few potential reasons why an attorney won’t seek out help for their addiction.
Many individuals may not be willing to admit or accept the fact that they have a problem with alcohol or other substances. They might feel it is a sign of weakness that they’re not able to fix something on their own. In most cases, an intervention is needed to help them begin their path to recovery.
Fear & Uncertainty
This can go one of two ways. The lawyer could be scared to go through the withdrawal process or be uncertain of other consequences. Or their fear could stem from the unwillingness to give up the substance yet.
Lawyers spend their entire careers fighting the odds and finding ways to support the legal system. Their addiction to substances, especially illegal drugs, could leave them feeling shameful and hypocritical in their efforts to honor and enforce the very laws they may be breaking.
Possibly the most important to lawyers is their own reputation and what their addiction could do to impact it. They may be worried about co-workers or their managers finding out and posing problems in their professional future as an attorney.
Lawyers & Attorneys Substance Abuse Statistics
Working as a lawyer or attorney is an extremely high stress profession. Tight deadlines and heavy workload make those working in the legal profession more prone to substance abuse and addiction.
Getting Substance Abuse Treatment for Lawyers
You will often be able to recognize the common signs of addiction in attorneys such as work performance problems, behavioral changes, poor personal hygiene, and more. Once they’re ready to accept the situation, there are numerous opportunities for substance abuse treatment for lawyers.
Every state offers Lawyer Assistance Programs (LAPs), which provide help to legal professionals who are struggling with addiction, substance abuse, as well as mental disorders like anxiety and depression.³ It is geared specifically toward working professionals who need specialized care. They can learn how to manage stress, get emotional support, and even go through treatment for problems with alcohol, cocaine, painkillers, and other substances.
Professional treatment centers provide additional assistance to those who are still having problems and can’t seem to stay ahead with LAPs alone.
- Krill, Patrick R. JD, LLM; Johnson, Ryan MA; Albert, Linda MSSW. January/February 2016. Journal of Addiction Medicine
- American Bar Association. May 8, 2018. Drug Use Disorders.
- American Bar Association. February 14, 2019. Directory of Lawyer Assistance Programs.