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Are Attorneys More at Risk for Alcoholism?

Posted in Alcoholism

Recent studies show that lawyers are dealing with more than heavy caseloads – they’re also struggling with substance abuse at almost twice the rate of those in other professions.

Work-related stress is the most likely culprit for the disturbing statistic related to lawyers. They’re dealing with depression at a higher rate than the general population, and they’re self-medicating with alcohol. They also seem more likely to have a hard time getting help for themselves, which is ironic as their workday is mostly dedicated to getting others out of a pinch.

These high-functioning lawyer alcoholics are somehow mostly capable of staying on top of their workload despite a penchant for drinking to excess, but the mental burden and physical issues eventually take a toll. Despite their position in the community and the respect that most have for them, repeated heavy drinking can result in personality changes that can jeopardize years of hard work.

Statistics vary, but some say up to 20 percent of lawyers who have practiced 20 years or less have issues with alcohol. Lawyers who have more than 20 years experience are believed to have an alcoholism rate closer to 25 percent. The perception among some of the general public is that lawyers drink so much because they can, that they are somehow above the law.

Law school students are also at high risk of nurturing tendencies that prep them for alcoholism. It’s believed that the stress of law school can lead a higher percentage of them to drink, a practice that carries on into their careers.

How severe is the problem? All 50 states and Canada have some type of assistance for lawyers coping with an addiction to alcohol.