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My Clients Don’t Know I’m An Alcoholic

The hard-working and heavy-drinking attorney, the kind played by Billy Bob Thornton on Amazon’s series Goliath, for example, is a familiar part of legal dramas on television. While pop culture tends to celebrate by these characters by showing how they succeed in spite of the alcohol abuse, their health concerns are similar to real-life truth in the legal field, according to national research on lawyer impairment. Today, let’s talk about some of the startling results of a first-of-its-kind study, including one in five lawyers admitting to problem drinking, and what steps to take if you’re an attorney who feels most at-risk right now.

The pressures and demands of working as an attorney often takes a toll on the health and well-being of people in the profession, and the high levels of stress and anxiety can lead to problem drinking and mental health issues. According to a study by the ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs, one in five attorneys surveyed admitted to drinking at a level that could negatively affect their livelihood. If you recognize the warning signs of problem drinking now, seek the help of a treatment program designed for members of your profession and equipped to ensure the privacy and confidentiality needed to protect your career.

The Study

The study, done by the ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs with help from the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, shows the results of national data on substance abuse and behavioral health concerns among nearly 13,000 licensed and employed attorneys. The focus involved examining the occurrence of alcohol and drug use as well as symptoms of anxiety, depression, and stress among your peers. Never before has this kind of study been done, and the results reveal a significant need for treatment within the profession.

The Results

If you have been struggling with alcohol abuse on the job, you’re not alone. The survey shows 20.6% of those who responded admit their drinking can be considered a problem. That statistic is the only revealing information to come out of the study. Take a look at these other results.

Lawyer Impairment Survey

61%                 Reported concerns over anxiety during their careers

46%                 Reported concerns over depression during their careers

28%                 Reported experiencing depression, mild to severe

19%                 Reported experiencing anxiety, mild to severe

11.5%              Reported having suicidal thoughts during their career

Study by the ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs in connection with Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation

Who’s Most Affected?

According to the study, one group appearing more at risk for behavioral concerns and alcohol addiction is younger and less experienced attorneys. But, age and experience were not the only significant factors for developing substance abuse and mental health concerns. Problem drinking could stem from the higher levels of anxiety, depression, and stress—similar to what you might be experiencing right now.

The Barriers to Getting Help

It’s likely you have experienced some of these same concerns during your career and were unable to find productive ways to respond. The obstacles to treatment might feel impossible to overcome, and the study addressed that issue. Both shame attached to other people finding out about a need for treatment and a strong desire for confidentiality or privacy represent the two main barriers for your peers who admitted to problem drinking.

What Can We Do?

Information from the study is being used to consider how to better identify solutions to overcome those barriers. Increasing lawyer assistance programs is one of those solutions, and creating more resources to provide treatment specific to attorneys like you nationwide is another. One of those resources is available to you now at Headwaters Origins with treatment programs designed to help you face addiction and protect your livelihood and the career you have worked so hard to build.

HeadWaters Origins is a well-known care provider offering a range of treatment programs targeting the recovery from substance use, mental health issues, and beyond. Our primary mission is to provide a clear path to a life of healing and restoration. We offer renown clinical care for addiction and have the compassion and professional expertise to guide you toward lasting sobriety. For information on our programs, call us today: 844-439-2837.

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