Substance abuse among legal professionals is a pervasive issue, and it is one that has not received enough attention in the past. Fortunately, this is beginning to change. The American Bar Association (ABA) has recently launched a pledge campaign to address substance use disorders among lawyers.
Alcohol and Drug Addiction Among Lawyers
There are not many statistics that deal with addiction in the legal profession, but there is some data available. In 2016, the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and the ABA released a report about addiction among practicing, licensed attorneys in 19 states.
Roughly 21 percent of lawyers met the criteria of being “problem drinkers.” Of the more than 12,000 attorneys surveyed, just more than 25 percent would even answer questions about drug use. Among those who did answer, 16 percent admitted to using sedatives, 10.2 percent said they used marijuana, and 5.6 percent said they used either opioids or cocaine and other stimulants.
While about 65 percent of the general population in the United States consumes alcohol, 85 percent of lawyers admitted to alcohol use over the past year. Over 20 percent said that they had moderate levels of concern regarding a substance use disorder, and 3 percent said they have serious concerns.
ABA Launches a New Pledge Campaign for Legal Professionals
There is a culture within the legal profession that excuses and sometimes even promotes the abuse of substances. This is a troubling trend and the ABA advocates for addiction treatment for those who find that drug or alcohol abuse has become an issue.
The ABA has created a pledge to address substance use disorder and mental health issues within the legal profession. Some of the early signers of the pledge even indicate that they have already taken some of the suggested steps for the benefit of the partners and staff.
The ABA asks firms to sign a seven-point pledge, and some firms believe that adopting these initiatives will bring a positive change to the profession.
The seven points in the pledge ask firms to:
- Educate attorneys and staff on wellness
- Disrupt the status quo of alcoholic beverages at firm events
- Develop meaningful partnerships with outside companies to reduce the abuse of substances
- Provide access to resources and mental health experts confidentially
- Develop proactive protocols and policies that evaluate and treat issues
- Demonstrate “self-care” as a core value
- Spotlight the adoption of the pledge to attract new talent
Other Benefits of a Spotlight on Addiction Treatment for Lawyers
One of the ways that many experts advocate fighting the war on drugs is to stop jailing offenders and offer comprehensive addiction treatment services instead.
Now that more people in the legal profession are being entangled in this same system, there may be a greater opportunity to affect change. These professionals can experience firsthand the ways that the justice system fails to help a person with addiction and advocate for better methods.
If you work in the legal profession and deal with alcohol or drug abuse, attending the right addiction treatment program can help. You can learn more about admissions at The Recovery Village, where medical professionals can customize a program to suit your circumstances and needs.