Information on Addiction and Rehab for Lawyers

Addiction and alcoholism is often a serious problem for lawyers. People who work in the legal field often carry a lot of weight and responsibilities on their shoulders. This is just one reason why they will often turn to substances as a way to cope.

If you’re an attorney who is battling an addiction or alcoholism, you need this information. It’s important for you to realize how serious your problem is. However, you also need to know that there is a way out.

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What is Addiction and how are Attorneys Impacted?

In general, addictions begin with substance abuse. This condition can be defined as a physical issue, or a mental issue. Physical addiction refers to the physical need to ingest or use a substance, such as alcohol or drugs. Psychological addiction refers to the mental compulsion to use. More often than not, substance addictions involve both.

As an attorney, it’s important for you to understand that having an addiction doesn’t mean you’re weak.

It’s not about lacking willpower, or having poor morals. It’s about having a compulsion that is beyond your control. You may have turned to alcohol or drugs for any number of reasons. Over time, your habitual substance abuse turned into something much worse.

Once you understand more about addiction, you’re one step closer to getting a grasp on the situation. You are not the only lawyer to struggle with this problem, and you certainly won’t be the last. It’s much more common than most people realize.

Most people are pretty familiar with seeing alcohol used regularly on their favorite lawyer television shows. This is seen as just a part of the legal culture. Because of this, alcoholism in the legal profession has been normalized to some extent.

Even so, it’s a serious problem. Alcohol often seems like the go-to substance of use for attorneys. It’s easy to obtain, and it’s socially acceptable to drink, even on the job, in many cases. If you’re an alcoholic, please know that there’s nothing “normal” about it. You shouldn’t feel as though you need to drink simply because your colleagues do. You also shouldn’t feel the need to drink as a way to cope with your stress.

If you’re addicted to alcohol, this is a problem that needs to be addressed, not ignored. Continuing to ignore it is detrimental to your health and well-being. Not only that, but it can also negatively impact your career in the long-term.

Most attorneys who are battling alcoholism have no idea that they are addicted. Because it is so socially acceptable for lawyers to drink, they may not even consider that they have a problem that needs to be treated. Sadly, this happens all the time.

Alcoholism is actually an alcohol use disorder, which is a progressive disease. It will never get better unless it is treated, and it will not go away on its own.

People with an alcohol use disorder typically exhibit the following symptoms:

  • They are unable to limit how much or how often they consume alcohol.
  • They may feel compelled to drink, and feel out of control when they try to stop.
  • They typically find that their tolerance increases over time. That means they need to drink more to get the same effects.
  • They may have legal problems.
  • They may have problems with relationships, finances or at work.
  • They may try to keep their drinking a secret from others.
  • They typically deny that they have a problem.
  • When they do not drink, they experience symptoms of withdrawal.

In your case, you may have certain times during the day when you drink. It has become a type of ritual for you, and when that ritual gets disturbed in any way, it bothers you. That is also a sign that your drinking has gotten out of control, and that you may have an alcohol use disorder.

Drug addiction can apply to the compulsion to use all kinds of drugs. For many lawyers, their drug addictions begin with the simple, prescribed use of painkillers. After being on these medications long-term, they become addicted to them. Some may even begin to use heroin when they’re no longer able to get their prescriptions.

Illicit drugs are also fairly common among attorneys. They may use heroin, cocaine, or even methamphetamine in some cases. If you’re addicted to a drug, you may think that you’re managing it fairly well. You work in a professional position, you manage your money well, and you have a nice home and family. Unfortunately, the drugs are controlling you and your life more than you realize.

If you’re a drug addict, you owe it to yourself to learn what this could mean for your life. Drugs have so much power over the people who use them. Finding out the truth now can help you get the assistance you need to quit.

If you have a drug addiction, you may exhibit any number of signs that indicate that you have a problem. These addictive behaviors include:

  • Keeping secrets from the people you love or work with.
  • Suffering through mood swings and ever-changing energy levels.
  • Experiencing changes in your appearance, such as weight loss, changes in the way you dress and even hygiene issues.
  • Becoming disinterested in activities you once enjoyed.
  • Not keeping up with your responsibilities or obligations.
  • Having legal problems to deal with.

Most people with drug addictions believe they have them completely under control. They do not like to be told they have a problem because they can “quit anytime.” This is not true at all, and it is just another symptom of denial.

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Lawyers and Addiction: Statistics and Solutions for Recovery

Alcohol and drug abuse and lawyers don't seem to go together. Lawyers - because they are legal professionals - are often not equated with addiction. It can be hard to believe that drug and alcohol addiction would ever strike in the life of someone who is so well versed in the laws of the United States, but it actually happens all the time. Attorneys carry such a heavy burden, and it's much more difficult than most people realize. As a result, they often turn to something to help them feel better, and even function in some cases. Quite often, that "something" ends up being drugs and alcohol.

Perhaps you're an attorney, and you also have a drug or an alcohol addiction. Because of the line of work you're in, you may assume that you're the only one with this problem.

Or, perhaps you know others who consistently drink alcohol or use drugs, but they seem to have their use under their control. You may have felt that way at some point, but now, you're thinking that it's not as in control as you once thought it was. That's just the way that addiction works.

Please be assured that you're not alone if you're suffering with a drug or alcohol addiction. In fact, many professions are prone to addiction, and there are so many lawyers all across the U.S. who are facing the exact same set of circumstances you are. These attorneys feel stuck in their addictions, and most of them also feel all alone in them too.

You may find it helpful to learn more about some of the statistics surrounding lawyers and addiction so that you have a better idea of what many of your colleagues are going through.

Attorneys and Addiction: A Look at the Statistics

The statistics indicate that if you're an attorney, your risk of having an addiction to either drugs or alcohol (or both in some cases) is actually quite high. Most people tend to think of lawyers as professionals who wouldn't suffer from this type of problem, but the statistics among legal professionals are clear. They tell us that:


As many as 20% of all lawyers regularly abuse some type of drug. This compares to only about 10% of the population as a whole. This also compares to the 15% of all surgeons who are thought to have problems with drinking alcohol.

High Rates

Lawyers who work in law firms were found to have the highest rates of alcohol abuse. Junior associates were found to have the highest rates of problem drinking.

32 %

Senior associates and junior partners were less likely to have drinking problems, but they were still substantially high. Almost 32% of lawyersunder the age of 30 are said to be problem drinkers.

Alcohol abuse and addiction seems to be a major factor with lawyers when you consider the research that has been done. However drug addiction is still a serious problem for them as well. When you consider the fact that one in three attorneys are problem drinkers, even if they haven't become addicted to alcohol yet, it's clear that the substance abuse problem in the United States is something that needs to be taken very seriously.

One question many people have is, why are lawyers at such a high risk for addiction?

It is actually quite rare for someone to present with a drug or alcohol problem and not have any other type of issue they're dealing with. Regardless of the circumstances surrounding it, addiction always has a cause; whether it's an addiction to drugs or alcohol.

Lawyers are really no exception to this rule, and for those lawyers who have drug or alcohol addictions, more often than not, there is also some other type of issue they're facing. For example:

  • 25% of lawyers who face some type of disciplinary action are found to be abusing drugs or alcohol, and also suffering from a psychological disorder.
  • 33% of all lawyers have been formally diagnosed with some type of mental health disorder.
  • Lawyers are 3.6 times more likely to suffer from depression, and this is in comparison to professionals in 28 other industries.
  • 20% of all lawyers are depressed.
  • This compares to 6.5% of all adults in the United States.
  • About 40% of all law students are depressed.
  • 19% of lawyers have shown symptoms of anxiety.

Attorneys who are struggling with their mental health often turn to drugs or alcohol as a way to self-medicate how they feel. This could be for a few different reasons. Sometimes it's because they know they need to get psychological help, but they don't feel they have the time to invest in themselves that way. Other times, they're not aware of the fact that a mental illness could be something they're dealing with because it just doesn't "jive" with the profession. Therefore, instead of seeking out help, they turn to substances as a way to cope with the emotional and psychological pain.

co-occurring disorder is best treated simultaneously, alongside addiction. At one point, there was a time when it was the standard practice to treat them separately. First, the addiction would be dealt with, and then patients were able to go to get counseling or even inpatient treatment for psychiatric illnesses.

This approach did a major disservice to those who needed drug or alcohol rehab because it failed to collaborate both types of treatment. It led to an increase in relapse rates, and even more of a need for addiction help.

Today, co-occurring disorders are treated simultaneously in many dual diagnosis treatment centers treatment centers across the nation. This has allowed practitioners to work together to ensure that all of the treatment methods provide the best possible outcome.

For lawyers, getting professional help for a co-occurring disorder is essential, even if you think that you don't have this condition. It's possible that you might be suffering with:

  • Chronic depression
  • Severe anxiety
  • A history of trauma
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Ongoing panic attacks

Getting the right kind of help is going to allow you to experience recovery so that you no longer have to battle these problems.

Attorneys and Drug and Alcohol Abuse: Are Lawyers More Prone to Addiction than Others?

Unfortunately, lawyers are more at risk for becoming addicted to drugs and alcohol than those who work in other professions.

This is possibly due to a number of different factors, and these include:

  • The fact that lawyers work between 60 and 80 hours per week.
  • Those who work more than 50 hours per week are three times more likely to abuse alcohol than those who work less hours.
  • Their exposure to illegal activities.
  • The burden that they carry to win cases, and the stress that brings.
  • The long hours that are often spent doing tedious work activities; especially during the beginning stages of their careers.
  • The pressure that is felt to set and achieve high goals for themselves.
  • The fact that research shows that the pressure to be successful begins in law school, and addicted law school studentsoften become addicted professionals.

It is difficult to understand how it feels to be an addicted lawyer unless you have been in that position. One attorney recently shared her story with the New York Times, and she states that, "Top law firms are filled with academic overachievers who are realizing their dreams when they start work. Upon arrival, though, instead of making a brilliant argument before a judge, these young lawyers may find themselves competing with their similarly gifted peers for the privilege of proofreading documents for a high-ranking partner. If they do a great job, they may get to proofread all weekend. That's what success can look like. Failure can look much worse."

Unfortunately, that is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to all of the stress that lawyers have to endure on a daily basis. Lower-ranking attorneys are often stuck doing paperwork long into the night, on their days off, or during the weekend hours. Those that are successful often appear to have it all together on the outside as they rise through the ranks, becoming senior attorneys, partners and even owning their own firms. The truth is, on the inside many of them are flailing.

Drinking and drugs tend to become a way of life for lawyers, and while all law firms are different, reliance upon substances can become something that's almost worn like a badge of honor. Meetings with clients are often taken over a drink at a local bar. Late night cram sessions before a big trial are often enjoyed with a colleague over a bottle of wine or several glasses of bourbon or scotch. Those who can't hold their liquor are made to feel small because of their inability to keep up with the others in the group.

As far as drug use goes, attorneys will often abuse prescription drugs that help them stay up later at night so that they can work harder and longer hours. In turn, many of them need additional medications or even illegal drugs just to be able to wake up in the morning and go to work again. It becomes a vicious cycle, and when you're living in the midst of it, it's almost impossible to escape it. You feel as though you have no other choice but to continue to use and keep up the façade of having your professional life together.

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The Consequences of Addiction for Legal Professionals

The consequences of addiction for lawyers can become quite severe at times; especially when criminal activity is involved. Consider the following scenarios:

  • An attorney is disbarred after has admits that he smuggled heroin in to inmates who were his clients, and he also kept some for himself.
  • A lawyer receives a drug trafficking charge, which carries a 25-year minimum sentence after a client recorded him while she was offering to pay her legal bill a bottle of 250 Oxycodone pills.
  • A Florida Bar suspended one attorney's license for 91 days because he offered to smuggle prescription medications in to a client while he was in jail, as long as he was paid to do so, and could keep some for himself.
  • An addicted lawyer does business with a local cocaine dealer and risks disbarment, losing his position at his law firm, and possible drug charges.
  • The lawyer who becomes so addicted to alcohol that it takes finishing a bottle of wine in the morning before work just to feel normal. This is an attorney who is pulled over on the way to the office and given a DUI.

Every one of these scenarios has happened to at least one attorney, somewhere, and there are those that are actually documented. It is impossible to ignore the consequences that can occur when you're an addicted lawyer, and those consequences have the power to ruin your professional life, and even your personal and social life in the long-term.

However, this is where so many lawyers find themselves struggling. Their job is to uphold the law under any circumstances, and yet, once addiction has taken over their lives, all bets are off. Quite often, they've used drugs or alcohol as a way to feel more in control, and they're not planning on the fact that ultimately, it is their addiction that takes control over them.

Lawyers and Drug and Alcohol Treatment: Overcoming the Barriers

The answer seems simple. If you've become addicted to drugs or alcohol, get the kind of treatment you need that will help you to recover so that you can move on. After all, that's what others do, isn't it? Unfortunately, this is a subject that isn't quite so black and white for attorneys. While they may know about the option of going to drug or alcohol rehab, for many lawyers, they run into a few different problems with the thought of getting professional help.

Statistics show that 70% of lawyers who are addicted to drugs and alcohol believe that they can handle the problem themselves, and they don't need treatment. At the same time, 40% of lawyers are afraid of how they will be treated by colleagues, judges, peers and clients. As a result, there are few lawyers who will reach out for the help that they so desperately need to recover from addiction.

As an attorney, regardless of your position at your firm, you exercise some type of control in your job; even if you're only a young lawyer who is going over paperwork all day. You're building a reputation of someone who can be counted on to handle the tedious tasks as well as those that are life or death situations. To paralegals and office assistants, you are on a much higher level than they are, even if it is your first year in practice. Because of this, not only do you feel as though you're powerful enough to handle something like an addiction on your own, but you also feel that your reputation is on the line if you admit you have a problem.

The barriers to alcohol and drug treatment are very real for attorneys, and the fact remains that it is not easy for them to reach out for help, for fear of being seen as weak and unable to cope with their lives.

Without a doubt, the best thing you can do as an addicted lawyer is to reach out for professional help, regardless of the aftermath, and regardless of the looks you may get from some of your colleagues. Contrary to popular belief, you will not be committing "career suicide" if you admit that you have an addiction problem that is in need of treatment. In fact, even the American Bar Association agrees that addiction should be met with the same point of view as treating any other disease. They state that lawyers are often in disbelief over the idea that they should get professional help for an addiction, but that just as someone with heart disease, or who is injured in a car accident often needs long term care, attorneys often need drug and alcohol rehab so that they can recover from addictions.

It's understandable that you might not feel comfortable entering a state-run facility because most attorneys find that method of treatment to be difficult for them to cope with for a number of reasons. The accommodations are often uncomfortable, and attorneys have usually grown accustomed to a certain level of comfort. Also, these facilities usually have high populations and lower amounts of staff members, which means that patients don't always get as much attention as they really need while in recovery.

A luxury rehab is much more appealing to attorneys and for good reason. These facilities are designed to provide all the comforts of home, along with excellent food, plenty of downtime and activities that many attorneys enjoy participating in. Luxury rehabs also have smaller patient populations, which is excellent because they also have higher staff to patient ratios than state-run and other types of addiction treatment facilities. Usually, luxury rehabs provide everything that an addicted lawyer would be looking for, which is why this is the perfect place for you if you're considering getting addiction treatment.

Addicted Lawyers Who Try to Quit Cold Turkey

It's possible that even though you can recognize an addiction to drugs or alcohol in your own life, you still might be hesitant. In your mind, you can come up with so many reasons why you shouldn't take the time to get professional help. Not only is your reputation at stake, but you're concerned about who will take care of your clients if you take time off, and how you will ever be able to get back into your work once you return.

While these concerns may have some validity to them, there's no escaping the fact that something needs to be done.

In an effort to change before facing disciplinary action, many attorneys will actually consider attempting to quit cold turkey. They reason with themselves that if they're not able to stop using on their own, at that point, they will get professional help.

Maybe this sounds like something you've told yourself. Unfortunately, you're not able to reason away your addiction, and most attempts at cold turkey quitting fail, even by the most high-powered professionals in the field of law.

Not only that, attempting to stop using drugs or alcohol on your own is very dangerous. The withdrawal symptoms you're likely to experience can lead you to relapse, and that could be fatal in many cases.

Most people who end up overdosing on drugs or alcohol have done so because of an attempt to stop using that ended in an overdose. No matter how strong you believe your resolve or your willpower is, it's important for you to understand that getting professional treatment will protect you from that, and it also offers you the best possible chance of being successful in your recovery.

Alcoholic attorneys are actually quite common in our country. The practice of law is, and always has been one of the most respected professions in the United States. It is vital for the preservation of our country as we know it. Those who choose to become lawyers are among the most brilliant people in the world. They need to be, because the field of law requires them to hold society on their shoulders and handle all of the troubles that are thrown their way. Attorneys handle everything from basic and civil rights to the seemingly trivial matters that affect people in their normal, everyday lives. The world would not be the same without them, and many would say that it simply could not go on without them.

With such an incredible amount of responsibility, it stands to reason that lawyers would constantly feel as though they were under a lot of pressure. This is a type of pressure that people in most other professions would have a hard time understanding. Attorneys frequently need some type of outlet; a place to go, something to do, or someone to turn to in order to relieve some of that stress. It should not come as a big surprise that many of them end up turning to alcohol, and as a result, they become alcoholics. In fact, the problem might be much more serious than most people think.

A national survey was featured in the Journal of Addiction Medicine regarding addiction in lawyers. Of the 15,000 attorneys who were currently employed, it was found that between 21% and 36% of them were drinking enough alcohol to diagnose them with an alcohol use disorder. These statistics are as much as five times higher than alcohol use disorders within the general population. In addition, depression and anxiety were also rated quite high among this specific group of attorneys, which, in turn, feed into addiction.

If you're an attorney with a drinking problem, then you fall into that percentage of lawyers who is suffering with this terrible addiction. Unfortunately, the field of law is almost like a magnet for those who are high achievers, success driven, very competitive people who rarely take the time to properly care for their own well-being. Alcohol seems like an easy way to get away from the stress of the job, and in many cases, it's considered to be a part of the job. Still, once it's taken over your life, it can cause serious problems that affect you both personally and professionally.

The question is, why is alcohol such an integral part of the lives of most attorneys?

Alcoholic Lawyers: It's Woven Into Everything

The problems generally begin during the earliest days of law school. Once you enter into law school, you're taught to work hard, play even harder, and take on the role of a capable, aggressive professional who does not have any weaknesses. During law school, drinking becomes a part of what you do. Everyone does it, and it's seen as being completely normal. In fact, you're considered to be abnormal if you don't drink along with everyone else. Over time, heavy drinking, not taking care of yourself and a lack of balance in your life becomes the norm. This behavior is modeled to law students, as well as to young lawyers once they enter into the profession. Although this type of behavior is not something that only afflicts attorneys, something must be said about the fact that lawyers drink twice as much as doctors do. That in itself makes them unique.

How do you manage to cope when problem drinking is considered to be normal for your place of employment? Actually, most attorneys cope by going with the flow, and doing what everyone else is doing. This usually translates into:

  • Drinking because you're feeling stressed out.
  • Drinking because you're unhappy.
  • Drinking because you want to celebrate with your co-workers.
  • Drinking because you need to entertain your clients.
  • Drinking because your co-workers have abandoned you for the evening and you're feeling alone.

The list could go on and on. Lawyers who speak out about their alcoholism are made to feel weak, which is why every effort is made to protect their reputations and maintain a façade of normalcy. They're encouraged subconsciously to hide any struggles they feel they may be facing, or better yet, simply pretend that everything is fine.

In addition, it's almost as if the legal profession maintains a lot of pride in drinking to excess, and law schools are even worse. Lawyers who abuse alcohol wear it almost like a badge of honor. Social events revolve around drinking, marketing events revolve around drinking, and the stress that often results from even one day at the office or in the courtroom works to keep alcoholism among attorneys afloat.

As you might imagine, lawyers with alcoholism rarely believe that they have addictions. When a doctor, colleague, or even a professional in the addiction treatment field tells them they have alcohol dependence, they usually brush it off.

It's important to know the symptoms of alcoholism so that you can determine whether or not you should be concerned about your own relationship with alcohol. These symptoms include:

  • Finding it difficult to limit how much alcohol you drink.
  • Feeling a strong need to drinking regularly.
  • Developing a tolerance to alcohol, which drives you to drink more to feel the effects of it.
  • Experiencing legal problems because of alcohol consumption.
  • Having relationship problems because of alcohol use.
  • Drinking alcohol in secret or alone.
  • Experiencing physical or mental withdrawal symptoms when you don't drink.
  • Having periods during binges when you've blacked out.
  • Being ritualistic about drinking alcohol.

Any one of these symptoms of alcoholism could point to an addiction, and it's important to get professional help as soon as possible if you identify with any of the above.

The legal profession draws people who are considered to be type A personalities. They are competitive and goal-driven, and people with these personalities are much more prone to addictive behaviors. Because of this, attorneys will frequently over-analyze everything, and they tend to be prone to linear thinking. These are traits that are incredibly valuable as a part of the profession, but when it comes to recognizing an addiction, or being willing to take the proper steps to recover from one, they often fail. Instead, they will attempt to out-think it and out-smart it, depending on willpower alone to overcome it. It also doesn't help that lawyers are very bad at asking for help. Asking for help in their profession is a sign of weakness, and every effort is always made to appear strong, and not weak.

Attorneys are also notoriously known for being control freaks, and much of their profession is spent being out of control. Regardless of how well they prepare for litigation, or for a trial, at the end of the day, they are unable to control the jury, the judge, and even sometimes, their clients. Because of this, alcohol gives them something they can control, which is just one reason why it often gains such a tight grip on them.

When you combine the above with the fact that an attorney's reputation is on the line when reaching out for help, it's easy to see how alcoholism can become a deep, dark secret that gets buried, and that is allowed to eat away at a lawyer's life and career.

Denial is very common in alcoholics, but it might be even more common in addicted professional attorneys. Denial may be a defense mechanism that's subconsciously enacted, it might be an effort to conceal the shame of addiction, or it could just be a knee-jerk reaction to accusations of alcoholism among lawyers. It's difficult to say. However, what is clear is that when a lawyer is addicted to alcohol, he or she is usually the last one to acknowledge the existence of a serious problem.

Attorneys who are addicted to alcohol are frequently confronted with proof in the way of blackouts, binges or other pieces of evidence. However, these confrontations usually only result in excuses or counter attacks. It's difficult to remain in denial when an attorney is forced to face the fact that his or her accomplishments are suffering and goals are not being met.

Lawyers and Alcohol Addiction: What are the Risks Involved With Continuing to Drink?

The truth is that most lawyers who suffer from alcoholism will never experience any disciplinary actions because of it. Of course, there will be some who will make serious mistakes, or demonstrate lapses in judgment for one reason or another. However, the biggest consequence most serious issue that most alcoholic lawyers will face is that they'll never reach their full potential as attorneys. Because of this, their law firms, their clients and the community as a whole will suffer. The worst that can happen is that they will end up lying, cheating and stealing as a way to support their addictions. This will, in turn, damage their reputations, destroy their careers, and soil the profession as a whole.

On a professional level, continuing with a life of alcoholism will only serve to result in less billing hours, a delay in work completion, procrastination and sloppy representation, both in the courtroom and outside of it. There is no rehabilitation process that can be started in cases like these, and disciplinary action is only enacted when there are charges of professional misconduct. The legal professional has such high potential for incredible success, and those who manage to steer clear of addiction have the opportunity to reach that level.

On a personal level, continuing to drink can lead to broken marriage and broken homes, an insane amount of debt, legal troubles and significant health problems. Lawyers who refuse to accept the fact that they need help risk losing everything they hold dear to them, and these losses will only serve to promote drinking in excess continually if nothing is done to change that.

One Lawyer’s Story of Struggling with Alcoholism and His Recovery

So many lawyers battle alcoholism, but there are only a few that are willing to share their stories.

Steven Wall is the managing partner of Morgan Lewis, which is an Internationally known firm. He had just returned from a business trip, and alcohol was a major part of it. When he got home, his wife and his boss informed him that he was about to lose everything if he did not get help.

Wall had tried to stop drinking many times in the past. Once he was finally faced with losing everything he held dear, he agreed to go to treatment. He had started drinking while he was in high school, and the problem only got worse as he got older. The tipping point was when he was on a business trip in Houston. He had consumed several bottles of wine, vodka and other alcoholic beverages prior to the time he was supposed to be conducting a meeting. The staff at the hotel called the paramedics because of the shape he was in.

He admitted to his boss and his wife on the phone later that he needed help. But he still drank alcohol the entire way home on the plane.

Wall entered into an inpatient treatment program only three days later. Once he finished, he moved on to outpatient therapy and attending a local 12-Step program.

What Can Law Firms do to Help Alcoholic Attorneys?

There are a number of things that law firms can do to encourage alcoholic attorneys to get the help they need. It's important to note that cutting down, or temporarily suspending all drinking-related activities is not the answer. Alcoholism is a serious disease, and like other diseases it has to be treated properly in order for recovery to take place.

Surprisingly enough, there are a number of attorneys who have been through the struggles of different types of alcoholism, and they understand what needs to happen in order to facilitate change. Some of their suggestions include:

  • Rejecting the notion that seeking help is equal to weakness. This is true for addiction, stress reduction, depression and anxiety. Asking for help should be a sign of health and strength, and keeping the mind and body healthy should be a lawyer's number one priority.
  • Firms should regularly bring in attorneys who are in recovery and ask them to speak to their lawyers. Many of them have magnificent stories to tell about where they've been and how they overcame their addictions to alcohol.
  • Bring in an on-site therapist who will counsel attorneys on a regular basis, and require all lawyers to attend regular sessions. This would be much more beneficial than referring them to employee assistance or asking them to find a therapist.
  • Hold events that are not solely centered on drinking.
  • Enact a policy that encourages lawyers to file reports when they believe a colleague has a serious problem with drinking. In this way, the issue can be dealt with in-house, and the attorney can be encouraged to seek out the appropriate type of treatment.

Drug and alcohol addictions plague lawyers more than most people realize. Even though lawyers are considered to be among the most highly respected professionals in the United States, the fact that they carry so much weight on their shoulders often leads them to becoming involved with addictions. A growing number of attorneys admit to being addicted to some type of substance, whether that's alcohol, illegal drugs, or addictive prescription drugs. Excessive substance abuse is often seen as a rite of passage among those in the legal profession, and it's something that begins as early as law school. In fact, law students are often taught that alcohol and drugs are considered to be normal for attorneys, and they're encouraged to use whatever means necessary to achieve their own personal and professional goals.

Of course, in many cases this is problematic; not just because it harms the personal and professional portions of a lawyer's life, but also because it can lead to illegal behavior. Most people don't realize just how powerful addiction is, and they fail to recognize its ability to take over their lives.

If you're an attorney who is involved with using drugs or alcohol, this information is vital for you. Getting the right kind of addiction treatment now can save you from a lifetime of heartache, pain, and potentially, career-ending problems.

Drug or alcohol addiction always begins with some type of abuse. However, it is important to note that one does not have to be using substances for very long before an addiction can take place. It is possible to become addicted with the first use for some types of substances. For example, cocaine and heroin are thought to be addictive after only one use in many cases.

In general, addiction occurs because you have been using drugs or alcohol on a regular basis and your brain and body becomes dependent upon them. Substances affect the way dopamine and serotonin are produced in the brain, and over time, your brain loses its ability to produce them on its own.

For lawyers who have addictions to drugs or alcohol, their addictions are often formed because of continual drug or alcohol use. They are encouraged to continue using because of events that are held by the firm that are centered around substances, by being encouraged to socialize with clients (instances that usually involve alcohol), and by the high demands that are placed on them to be consistent with their job performance.

Because of these three circumstances, it is very difficult for most lawyers to admit they have a problem with drugs or alcohol, and the stress and pressure they face on a daily basis causes them to turn to substances as a way to get some relief from it.

There are a number of different legal issues that can result from continuing to use drugs or alcohol, and in some cases, attorneys are actually placed in a unique position. Quite often, they spend time with clients who encourage them to break the law, and if their addictions are serious enough, they will give in.

Just some of the legal issues that lawyers may face because of addictions include:

  • Possession of a controlled substance after purchasing drugs from a drug dealer.
  • Being convicted of a DUI because of driving while under the influence.
  • Drug trafficking charges.
  • Possession of drugs with intent to distribute them.
  • Drug dealing chargesif an attorney chooses to sell them.

Many of these charges may come as a surprise to you, but attorneys do make poor decisions when they're under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or when they have addictions. Quite often, they find themselves facing financial problems because of their dependence on drugs or alcohol, which can lead to them looking for additional ways to make money to support their habits.

Lawyers like to believe that they are consistently in control of everything in their lives, even though this is quite far from the truth. They lack control over their clients, judges and juries, and this is very problematic for them. It's not surprising that so many of them start to use substances, simply because that's something they feel they can control.

Addicted legal professionals make poor decisions, and while the addiction does take its time to manifest and take over their lives, sometimes something similar to one of the following scenarios occurs.

One attorney maintains a poised, in control façade while she's at work. She's well-spoken and professional, and she's also the youngest associate to ever be offered a partner position in the firm. The only alcohol she consumed related to work was to drink one glass of wine at the yearly Christmas party. However, at home, it's a different story. She drinks a bottle of wine by herself at home every night after work, and she has been an alcoholic since she was 13 years old. She is a secret drinker, but she is scared to get help because of what doing so might do to her reputation in the firm.

Another attorney was once a beer drinker, but his alcohol consumption was usually saved for time out with his friends. Eventually, he started to increase how much he drank until he had to have a shot before he could leave for work in the morning just to get his head in the right place. The complaints from clients begin to roll in, he's late to work all the time, and his performance as a lawyer has slipped way below par. Because of his reduced billings, he's come under serious financial pressure. As a result, he borrows money from trusts as a way to sustain his lifestyle. He manages to keep up a good front, and virtually no one knows the struggle that he is having on the inside, or the damage that he is doing to his life and his career. Eventually, he will be charged with breech of trust, and will end up being disbarred.

Another lawyer is a binge drinker, and he would spend days at a time in Florida drinking. Over time, he started drinking more often at home, but he always avoided drinking at the office. Ever so slowly, the alcohol started to work its way into his professional life, causing his colleagues to have to cover for him on several occasions. He denies that he is an alcoholic because he has a nice home, a good job and a stable family. Eventually his wife leaves him and his partners will expel him from the firm.

Finally, another lawyer is told by one of his clients that she can't afford to pay the cost of his representation. She is in jail, serving time for a drug charge. She asks if she can pay for his services in prescription medications, and he agrees to smuggle them in and take his portion from what he gives to her. He is brought up on drug charges, and loses his career.

As an addicted lawyer, it's possible that when you first started using drugs, you were doing it because you needed a way to relax, relieve stress, or simply escape from life's struggles. It's very likely that your job pressured you into finding something to escape to, and it's because of that pressure that you started using. You're certainly not alone if that's how you feel; although it may seem like it at times. You may look at the other attorneys at your firm and know that they use as well, but yet, they appear to have their lives together.

Appearances can certainly be deceiving, and if you're slowly watching your life slip away, it may be time to do something about it before it's too late. Otherwise, you may end up losing much of what's most important to you - your self-worth, your career and your family.

Attorneys are often in need of resources to help them navigate the waters of recovery, but they usually don't know where they can turn. Hopefully, the following resources will assist you.

The International Lawyers in Alcoholics Anonymous: This organization is often referred to as the ILLA, and they hold meetings online on Mondays. You can log in during one of two specific meeting times.

National Helpline for Judges Helping Judges: If you're a judge who is in need of help for an addiction, there is someone there to assist you. Please call 1-800-219-6474.

Law Student ListServ: If you are a law student in need of recovery from addiction, this is a group you may be interested in joining. You can contact Niki Irish at

Crisis Text Line: Are you facing a crisis and you're not sure what to do? Please text START to 741-741 to get help right away.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Suicide is never the answer, and yet, so many attorneys contemplate it because their lives begin to look hopeless due to their addictions. To get help, please call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) immediately.

The American Bar Association has a list of confidential services and support options for lawyers, judges and law students who are struggling with substance abuse or mental health problems. You can find your state and get connected to the services you need through the Directory of State and Local Lawyer Assistance Programs.

Other Helpful Phone Numbers

There are many other organizations that have been created as a way to help professionals like yourself. These include:

Another Attorney Shares About His Battle With Drug Addiction

Alcohol is not the only vice that lawyers may have. There are also those who battle drug addiction, and it has the power to completely ruin their lives. One lawyer shares his story:

“I am a lawyer and a recovered drug addict. I became a drug addict because I got caught in a vicious cycle of depression, anxiety and addiction to OxyContin, which was originally prescribed for pain management to treat my migraines. As the addiction took off, I would substitute Ativan if I had no Oxy. I destroyed my marriage. Almost lost my career. Got in trouble with Law Society of Ontario. Almost lost my children.”

He goes on to state that he had lived that way for four years. He was chasing a high, thinking that no one knew, and in the process, he was successfully destroying his life.

Addicted Lawyers and Alcoholics Anonymous

Alcoholics Anonymous (or AA) is an organization that has been around for several decades. Since its inception in the 1930s, it has been responsible for assisting in the recoveries of millions of people all around the world. It is a support group setting that allows you to talk with others about your addiction to alcohol, and you can get the help and support you need. You won't need to feel intimidated about sharing because everyone there is facing the same types of challenges in their lives. Peer support is such an important part of addiction recovery, and AA will provide that for you.

Addicted Attorneys and Narcotics Anonymous

Narcotics Anonymous (or NA) is very similar to Alcoholics Anonymous. Both programs follow the 12 Steps model of recovery. However, the difference is that NA is primarily for those who are struggling with a drug addiction. Like AA, those who attend NA will meet with each other in a support group setting, and meetings are usually held once a week. Narcotics Anonymous is a little bit newer than AA, but it has still been around since the 1950s, and so, they have an excellent track record for success.

Nothing is as heart-wrenching as having a family member who is struggling with an addiction. It's so hard to watch someone you love as they suffer, while you're powerless to do anything to ease their pain. Even when a loved one enters recovery, there are still many challenges that family members have to face, and these are hard to deal with without the right kind of support. Al-Anon is an organization that offers help to families who need it, by providing a safe environment to share. 

Alateen is similar, however, it is for teenagers and older children. Both of these types of support groups can be instrumental in helping family members to learn more about addiction in general, and to share about what they're facing in their everyday lives.

The Importance of Drug and Alcohol Treatment

If you are an attorney is who addicted to either drugs or alcohol, nothing is as important as getting professional help. Everything you love in your life, and everything you have worked so hard for is at stake, and it is critical to act quickly.

Drug and alcohol rehab is the best way to address both sides of your addiction so that you recover successfully. But there are a few types of treatment that work together to create a high quality recovery program.

The first step will most likely be to go through drug and alcohol detox. There are some types of drugs that require this type of treatment, such as opioids, alcohol and stimulants. It takes time for your body to get accustomed to them once you start taking them. Therefore, it makes sense that it would take some time to get used to not having them as well. That is what the detoxification process does.

For many people, medical detox is needed to recover from either drugs or alcohol. This allows them to take medications that will address their withdrawal symptoms. It will also lessen the duration of withdrawal and lower the chance of any complications.

Once detox is over, the next step is to go to a quality rehabilitation center for additional help. Therapy is such an important step; especially for someone who needs to find different ways to cope.

Attorneys typically find themselves being stretched so thin that they do not know how to handle their day-to-day activities. They may end up feeling overwhelmed or stressed, and drugs or alcohol offer a welcome reprieve. Also, it is important to find out if you have a co-occurring disorder, which could be contributing to your addiction. If you do, that should be treated during rehab as well.

Finally, your aftercare matters as well. You will be asked to attend follow-up appointments, and it is important for you to do that. The more you can focus on maintaining your sobriety the better. You will need the support of other people who want you to succeed.

Addiction Recovery is Available for Lawyers Seeking Professional Help

At Northpoint Recovery, we understand that it can be difficult to carve out time during the day to get help for an addiction. As an attorney, your time is limited and in high demand. But when you think about the long-term consequences, it makes sense to take the time you need to take now to recover.

Are you a lawyer who battles drug addiction or alcoholism? There is a way out. Please contact us today.

Talk to a Rehab Specialist

Our admissions coordinators are here to help you get started with treatment the right way. They'll verify your health insurance, help set up travel arrangements, and make sure your transition into treatment is smooth and hassle-free.

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