by Anne Chambers, LCSW and Anne McDonald, JD
According to the
National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence (NCADD), alcohol is the most
often-used addictive substance. One in 12 adults faces an alcohol concern;
several million more engage in risky drinking. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services
Administration (SAMHSA) reports
an 8.8 percent rate of substance use disorders in the United States. Alcoholism ranks as the third-leading
lifestyle-related cause of death in the U.S. Half
of adults report a family history of problem drinking.
The NCADD estimates
that 20 million Americans used an illegal substance in the past month. Illicit
drugs include substances like marijuana, hashish, methamphetamine, cocaine,
heroin and so forth. Marijuana appears to be the most commonly used illicit
substance at this time. Currently we are hearing a great deal about the problem
of prescription addiction in our country. Accidental addiction occurs when a
person receives treatment for a specific medical concern with a valid
prescription and becomes addicted over time. Some accidental addicts see
multiple physicians to obtain additional prescriptions or turn to illegal
substances over time. NCADD estimates of the total overall costs of substance
abuse in the U.S. exceed $600 billion per year.
Substance concerns in the legal profession
have above-average rates of substance concerns, depression and suicide. The
incidence of lawyer substance concerns, particularly alcohol concerns, is high.
continues to be the most frequent problem chemical for legal professionals. A recent landmark study titled
“The Prevalence of Substance Use and Other Mental Health Concerns Among
American Attorneys” was published in the January/February 2016 edition of the Journal
of Addiction Medicine. It summarizes
the results of a 2015 study by the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and the ABA
Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs, providing valuable insights regarding
the current state of mental health among attorneys in our country.
completed survey measures assessing alcohol use, drug use and mental health
symptoms. Data was analyzed on a final sample of more than 12,000 licensed
attorneys working in the legal field.
attorneys completed a 10-item self-report tool to screen for hazardous use,
harmful use and potential dependence. One in five screened positive. Findings
included a significantly higher proportion of positive screens among men,
younger lawyers and those working in the field for a shorter duration. Over 22
percent of the participants reported they felt their use of substances was
problematic at some point in their lives. The largest chunk reported the
concern presented during their first 15 years of practice.
were limited on the self-administered drug abuse screening test. Most were
identified as low risk. One in five appeared to be at intermediate risk and one
in 33 appeared to be at substantial risk. Of those reporting use of a specific
substance group within past year, the highest weekly rates were stimulants,
sedatives, tobacco,marijuana and
opioids, in that order.
percent of participants reported past treatment for alcohol or drug use. One in
five reported they had participated in a treatment program specifically
tailored to legal professionals. This group had significantly lower substance
use than those who attended a more general program. Participants reported
barriers to treatment as not wanting others to find out they needed help and
concerns about privacy or confidentiality.
If you are concerned about substance use, please contact the
Missouri Lawyers’ Assistance Program at 800-688-7859 for free, confidential
on Lawyer Assistance Programs, American Bar Association Website, http://www.americanbar.org/groups/lawyer_assistance.
DSM-5: Diagnostic and
Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition. American Psychiatric Association, Washington, DC,
Patrick R. JC, LLM; Johnson, Ryan, MA and Albert, Linda, MSSW. “The Prevalence
of Substance Use and Other Mental Health Concerns among American Attorneys,”
Journal of Addiction Medicine, http://journals.lww.com/journaladdictionmedicine/pages/currenttoc.aspx, Vol.10 (1), Jan/Feb 2016, pp.
Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, “Signs and Symptoms,” www.ncadd.org, site last visited 8/26/16.
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