The Washington Post recently published this column by New York writer and lawyer Lisa F. Smith on the stigma of drug addiction in the legal profession and the latest research on just how many attorneys suffer from substance abuse.
The whole column is worth reading, but here’s an excerpt:
A newly released study conducted by the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and the American Bar Association Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs reports an alarming statistic: Up to 21 percent of licensed, employed lawyers qualify as problem drinkers; for lawyers under age 30, it’s 31.9 percent. By comparison, only 6.8 percent of all Americans have a drinking problem. In addition to questions related to alcohol, participants were asked about their use of licit and illicit drugs, including sedatives, marijuana, stimulants and opioids: Seventy-four percent of those who used stimulants took them weekly.
Smith calls for a “structured and ongoing” conversation about substance abuse among attorneys. Newer lawyers especially stand to benefit, she writes.
Yes, it’s critical for a new lawyer to learn best practices for working with clients and how to get a duplicating job handled overnight. But it’s just as critical for them to know where to go when they feel overwhelmed or when they find themselves having those few extra drinks they never felt they needed before.
The Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program provides confidential help for lawyers, law students, and judges who have problems with substance abuse or mental health issues. TLAP is available anytime at 1-800-343-8527.
You can read more about the substance abuse research in this March 2016 story from the Texas Bar Journal. Find additional resources from the ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs.