THE PREVALENCE OF SUBSTANCE ABUSE AMONG LAWYERS
- August 26, 2018
All of us, no matter how knowledgeable or enlightened we like to think we are, cling to a certain amount of stereotyping when it comes to people with substance use disorders. We expect it from the poor, the homeless, the devil-may-care frat boys, the Hollywood elite. The truth is that addiction knows no race, gender, or income bracket. One thing that is true across the board is that people in high-pressure, stressful situations are more prone to substance abuse. That’s where one unexpected group comes into play – attorneys.
An article from a July 2017 edition of the New York Times chronicles the addiction and eventual death of a high-powered Silicon Valley attorney. The man, named Peter, died from a bacterial infection that is common among IV drug users. When his ex-wife (and the author of the article) found him, his phone was nearby, showing that the last call he’d made was a conference call for work. How did a man, intelligent enough that he had once been a chemist and then became a lawyer, driven enough to think of work until the very last, meet such an end?
According to a report by the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and the American Bar Association, drug use among lawyers is both common and on the rise. They questioned 12,825 licensed, practicing attorneys across 19 states, but only 3,419 answered questions about their drug use. That in itself says something about the problem – attorneys are held to a certain standard of conduct, and they’re afraid to talk about drug use. Consider this statement from the New York Lawyer’s Code of Professional Responsibility: “The public should be protected from those who are not qualified to be lawyers by reason of a deficiency in education or moral standards … and should refrain from all illegal and morally reprehensible conduct.” Despite growing acceptance of the idea that addiction is a disease, many people continue to view it as a moral failing. Also, most felony convictions – which would include possession of most illegal drugs – result in automatic disbarment. Perhaps it’s no wonder, then, that lawyers aren’t eager to admit that they need help.
In the study mentioned above, 5.6 percent of the lawyers who responded had used cocaine, crack and stimulants, 5.6 percent used opioids, 10.2 percent used marijuana and hash, nearly 16 percent used sedatives, and an incredible eighty-five percent of all the lawyers surveyed had used alcohol in the previous year (compared to about 65 percent of the general population). It’s hard to believe that so few lawyers would use illegal drugs compared to other populations; the most likely explanation is that they were just more willing to admit to drinking alcohol because it’s legal and socially acceptable.
If you or a loved one need help with quitting drugs or alcohol, consider Asana Recovery. We offer medical detox, along with both residential and outpatient programs, and you’ll be supervised by a highly trained staff of medical professionals, counselors, and therapists. Call us any time at (949) 438-4504 to get started.