Alcohol Abuse and Mental Health Concerns among American Attorneys v., 050116 ALBJ, 77 The Alabama Lawyer 198 (2016)

Author:Robert B. Thornhill.
Position:Vol. 77 3 Pg. 198

Alcohol Abuse and Mental Health Concerns among American Attorneys

Vol. 77 No. 3 Pg. 198

Alabama Bar Lawyer

May, 2016

Robert B. Thornhill.

A comprehensive national study funded by the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and the American Bar Association Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs was recently published. The title of the study is, "The Prevalence of Substance Use and Other Mental Health Concerns among American Attorneys" {Journal of Addiction Medicine, February 2016-Volume 10- Issue 1-p 45-52). Prior to this study, the most recent and most widely-cited statistics and information regarding alcohol use and mental health concerns among attorneys came from a 1990 Washington state study involving some 1,200 attorneys. This recent study involved 12,825 licensed and employed attorneys in 19 states (Alabama participated in the study) and provides current and reliable statistics. Here is a brief list of findings from the study: • More than 20 percent of licensed lawyers drink at levels considered "hazardous, harmful and potentially alcohol-dependenf'-three times higher than the rate of alcohol abuse among the general public.

• The highest problem drinking rate overall was among younger lawyers under age 30 (31.9 percent) and junior associates at lawfirms (31.1 percent).

• A high rate of depression-28 percent-compared to 8 percent of the general population experienced depression in a given year. (Forty-six percent reported concerns at some point in their career.)

• Symptoms of anxiety were experienced by 19 percent. (Sixty-one percent reported concerns with anxiety at some point in their career.)

• Twenty-three percent experienced symptoms of stress.

These findings clearly show that attorneys experience "drinking that is hazardous, harmful or otherwise generally consistent with alcohol use disorders at a rate much higher than other populations." Depression, anxiety and stress are also significant problems for attorneys. We have known for many years that use of mood-altering substances such as alcohol have been strongly associated with stress, depression and anxiety. These "co-occurring disorders"are the rule and not the exception! Many begin to abuse alcohol (or other substances) as a way to cope with stress, anxiety or depression. Many others begin to experience depression, stress or anxiety as a result of abusing alcohol or other substances.

The Alabama Lawyer...

To continue reading