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Media Spotlight Shines on Lawyer Drug, Alcohol Abuse

It is well known that law is a stressful career path. What isn't as well known is that a significant number of attorneys suffer from addiction and other mental health issues.

There has been surprisingly little research done on this topic. In 2016, the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and the American Bar Association Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs conducted a study of addiction and mental health issues in the legal community ( The study, available at, indicates a large-scale problem. Recently, a lively thread on the ISBA's litigation discussion group was kicked off with a link to a widely read New York Times article about an addicted lawyer's death and what the author describes as a "web of drug abuse" in the legal profession (

So how big of a problem does the profession have? The ABA/Betty Ford study surveyed 12,825 licensed, employed attorneys. Those attorneys completed surveys where they self-assessed their alcohol use, drug use, and symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress. A whopping 20.6 percent of lawyers screened positive for potentially alcohol-dependent drinking. The study also showed high levels of depression (28 percent), anxiety (19 percent), and stress (23 percent). Find out more in the September Illinois Bar Journal.

Posted on Sep 07, 2017 by Mark Mathewson | Comments (1)
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Member Comments

Good on the ISBA for shining a light on this issue! Aside from addressing "hard" addiction concerns--which LAP does a great job of addressing--practitioners might consider mindfulness, as a way of addressing "soft" emotional concerns, that can be fertile ground for more serious addictive behavior. I commend the practice to law schools, practicing lawyers, and even judges!

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