Demystifying Addiction in the Legal Profession

Drunk guy holding a shot of whiskey.
The ABA calls it a crisis of the legal profession. A professor of psychiatry told The New York Times it’s “a conspiracy of silence.” Yet for many attorneys, alcohol and substance abuse are sometimes just part of the job.

The American Bar Association (ABA) calls it a crisis of the legal profession. A professor of psychiatry told The New York Times it’s “a conspiracy of silence.” Yet for many attorneys, alcohol and substance abuse are sometimes just part of the job.

Fueled by stress, long hours, and an environment where drinking at work is often ignored – if not somewhat permissible – recent studies have confirmed a long-known reality: Attorneys are more prone to abuse drugs and alcohol than the population at large. About one in five active attorneys qualify as “problem drinkers,” and potentially as many as one-third of attorneys fall into that category. That’s at least three times the national rate of adults who have alcohol use disorder.

Throw in the fact that between 19% and 28% of attorneys suffer from untreated mental issues like depression and anxiety. What it all adds up to, as one attorney and recovering addict told the ABA, is a situation where “society will suffer as the overall judgment of lawyers is impaired, particularly if the problem is ignored since it can be difficult for clients to otherwise detect.”

Substance abuse is a known problem in the legal community. But it is not without a solution.

The WSBA Member Wellness Program will explore this topic in depth on April 24 during its annual Work & Wellness Day, “Demystifying Addiction: Modern Approaches to an Ancient Phenomenon.” Check out the full event details and register online.

One thought on “Demystifying Addiction in the Legal Profession

  1. Alec Schwimmer

    Great article! I agree completely. As an attorney who has fought addiction for years, my best recommendation is to utilize the WSBA’s Lawyer Assistance Program and join a recovery group. Its very easy for this disease to get away from you and cause irreparable harm to yourself and those around you. There are many great resources available. You just need to have a desire to change your life, and be willing to put yourself out there to get the help you need before its too late…

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