How Prevalent is Drug Use Really?
While specific substance abuse isn’t always monitored, as many as 21% of lawyers many be actively addicted or abusing substances. Most studies suggest between 18 and 21% of lawyers struggle with substance abuse (compared to an 8-10% national average), with stimulant abuse at nearly twice that of the general population.
In addition, with up to 33% of lawyers suffering from mental health disorders including depression and anxiety and a suicide rate twice that of the general population, lawyers constantly face many factors that make them vulnerable to addiction. Therefore, someone who simply drinks a large amount after work may still be vulnerable to addiction through frequent exposure and through environmental triggers.
High Functioning Addiction
Many people think of addicts as homeless, jobless, and often young, between the ages of 18 and 25. But, addicts are frequently working professionals. In fact, studies estimate that 77% of addicts hold down jobs, often fulfilling their duties and even passing as a healthy person. Colleagues or coworkers may guess that something is wrong, but with shifts in behavior and performance often happening over time, most are able to account for drug-induced behavioral change as stress, anxiety, or another disorder.
At the same time, frequent substance abuse still shows, even if the user is careful. Lapses in attendance and performance, such as showing up later or taking longer breaks may become frequent. Declining work performance, missed deadlines, client complaints, and more lost cases are also frequently the result of substance abuse. Others suffer lapses in social graces, becoming more difficult to get along with, staying in touch with fewer friends, or even being hostile outside of work. This is especially relevant when combined with lapses in appearance and hygiene.
Social events, where alcohol or drugs are available, may also be an important tell. While high-functioning addicts often perform well with no drugs or alcohol around, they may lose control and overindulge with alcohol available.
Affects to Job and Reputation
Anyone found using stimulants on the job will likely lose their job. Unlike blue-collar work areas, lawyers are not frequently drug tested, and may go for years before being found out. Most frequently, lawyers are exposed in drug and alcohol abuse when given DUIs or when arrested, when the facts of their substance abuse land them in direct legal trouble.
Unfortunately, this can result in severe repercussions, including being disbarred, banned from the bar, or temporarily removed. However, results can vary by state. For example, South Dakota regularly disbars lawyers caught using substances, even when the recommended punishment is a 90-day suspension. This is important because it means that lawyers who are using are putting themselves and their career at risk each time they use.
If you or a loved one is using, it’s not too late. You can actively seek out help and receive treatment for drug addiction without putting your job or reputation at risk. Legal professionals can seek out treatment with inpatient or outpatient care and are protected under HIPPA. With up to 60 days of paid family medical leave available in most professions, and no legal obligation to stipulate what the medical problem is, you can simply take a leave of absence, attend treatment, and come back clean and sober. Look for a center that has a specialized addiction treatment program for professionals.
Most treatment programs are offered through inpatient and outpatient care. Inpatient care includes medically assisted detox, seclusion or living in a treatment facility, and around the clock care from medical professionals. Outpatient care allows you to continue attending work and living in your home. Both are valid options, but those in high-stress environments are often benefited by inpatient care, where they are able to learn new behaviors and stress management techniques without managing a high-responsibility job at the same time.
Legal professions are high stress, often unrewarding, and typically dominated by fast-paced, anxiety-inducing workloads. As a result, many legal professionals turn to substances to self-medicate, to stimulate themselves, and to relax and unwind after a demanding day on the job. Over time, substance use affects their health, may impact performance and their career, and can result in disbarment and legal complications.
Seeking help, either for yourself or for a loved one, is important to protect your loved one, their clients, and everything they have worked for. For more information, please contact Beginnings Treatment Centers today and speak with one of our experienced and professional intake advisors, we’re here to help you.