Problem Drinking All-Too-Common Among Lawyers

a gavel to represent lawyers in need of addiction treatment

If you’re a lawyer struggling with alcohol abuse, you’re far from alone. A new landmark study, published this month in the Journal of Addiction Medicine, found that one in three licensed employed attorneys in the U.S. consume alcohol at levels consistent with problem drinking.That’s roughly 21 percent, compared with 12 percent of a broad sample of highly educated workers across various professions and 15 percent of surgeons, researchers noted.

Other notable findings of the study, which was co-funded by the American Bar Association and the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, and involved 12,825 licensed, employed lawyers in 19 states around the country:

  • Junior associates reported the highest rate of problem drinking; senior associates and junior partners followed
  • Lawyers with 10 or fewer years of experience had much higher rates of alcohol abuse than their more senior colleagues
  • 28 percent of attorneys struggled with some level of depression
  • 19 percent of attorneys showed symptoms of anxiety

“This new research demonstrates how the pressures felt by many lawyers manifest in health risks,” American Bar Association President Paulette Brown said in a statement. She added that the findings “provide an important guide” for the association’s lawyer assistance programs to help practitioners address the mental health risks.

Chelsy Castro, clinical case and program manager at the Illinois Lawyers’ Assistance Program, told the Chicago Tribune that the data confirmed what she sees every day. “With lawyers, it is a zero-sum game all of the time: One side has to win, and one side has to lose,” she said. “So there is a lot of pressure to be perfect.”

The Lawyers’ Assistance Program, a nonprofit organization that provides free and confidential mental health and addiction services for lawyers, judges and law students, is working closely with law firms and law schools to remove the stigma around seeking help, Castro said.

Getting Addiction Help

If you think you have a drinking problem, there’s no shame in getting help. Providence Treatment prides itself on being a supportive and effective rehab for professionals, including lawyers. To learn more, call (866) 247-3307.


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