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Addiction in Lawyers: 5 Signs to Look For

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Addiction in Lawyers: 5 Signs to Look ForAddiction in lawyers is a large problem across the industry. And while some of them may be high-functioning, others aren’t able to hide their substance abuse as well.

Are you concerned about potential addiction signs in an attorney you know?  Look for these indicators to see if there’s a problem.

Signs of Addiction in Lawyers

1. Work Performance Issues

People who are struggling with substance abuse often have a hard time staying focused and attentive. This can lead to a drop in their work performance, compared to their efforts prior to their addiction. You’ll recognize this as they show a lack of productivity, missed deadlines, and receive complaints from people they work with, including clients.

Attendance problems may also become more consistent as they miss appointments and court hearings, show up late for work, or take extended breaks for lunch as well other pauses in their workflow.

2. Multiple Problems with Co-workers

While disagreements come as part of the job in any legal profession, lawyers struggling with substance abuse are more likely to repeatedly end up in conflicts with their team members. They may be less inclined to accept constructive feedback or other forms of criticism.

The guilt that comes from addiction in lawyers frequently pulls them away from others in the industry. They’ll consistently withdraw themselves and have trouble getting along with other attorneys.

3. Changes in Behavior

The way a person acts when they are having problems with addiction are often the most telling signs of substance abuse. They may begin to lie frequently, keeping secrets for unknown reasons and becoming overly defensive if caught.

Attorneys can also act strangely or inappropriately at social events, whether they have been drinking or not. The poor behavior may lead to broken connections with family and other acquaintances.¹

4. Lack of Personal Hygiene

Though most of the addiction signs are mental and emotional, physical appearances can stand out as well. Individuals may begin to care less about their personal hygiene efforts, coming to work looking disheveled and out of place.

They may have bad breath or body odor and might even forget to cover up the smell of alcohol or other drugs.

5. Improper Outlook on Drugs and Alcohol

Someone who is struggling with addiction will look for any excuse or chance to partake in their substance of choice. For an attorney with alcohol addiction, they’ll seek out any opportunity to celebrate with a drink or make frequent claims that they need drinks to connect with co-workers and clients.

While prescription drug addiction in lawyers may be a bit less dramatic with explanations of pain or stress for the large doses they take.

Treatment Options for Lawyers with Addictions

If you know an attorney who is showing any of these addiction signs, it may be time to start seeking out treatment options. There are treatment centers all over the country that are fully staffed and prepared to provide top-rated assistance.


  1. Mayo Clinic. October 26, 2017. Drug addiction (substance use disorder).
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