The interwoven social fabric of substance abuse and attorneys

the social fabric, he added. “It’s how lawyers bond. It’s how they get to know each other. It’s how they spend time together. It’s woven into just about everything that happens at many law firms.”

Licit and illicit drug use were surveyed, as well.

Of those surveyed who specified the use of a substance class in the past year, 74.1 percent used stimulants weekly. This was followed by sedatives at 51.3 percent, tobacco at 46.8 percent, marijuana at 31 percent, and opioids at 21.6 percent.

“I’m not surprised by this high sedative use,” Krill said. “There’s a lot of anxiety. There’s a lot of long hours. So you think of people using sleep medication to be able to get sleep and using benzodiazepines to calm their nerves or otherwise deal with anxiety.”

Sparking a conversation

The data exposes a need for more resources for attorney assistance programs and expansion of attorney-specific prevention and treatment interventions, researchers said.

Krill said he wasn’t shocked by the extent of problems.

However, he was surprised to learn that younger attorneys in the first 10 years of practice after graduating law school struggled the most.

“It really points to the need to target that population with some strategic intervention and really focus on that,” he said. “If you think about it, if they’re the lawyers who are experiencing the highest levels of distress now, what is the outlook for the rest of their career? It’s not promising.”

Attorneys are reluctant to seek help and utilize attorney assistance programs, he said. “They have a variety of reasons they cite, many of which relate to fears about confidentiality,” and although there are some resources available, there aren’t nearly enough, Krill said.

However, there have been renewed discussions on this issue within the American Bar Association and the State Bar Association, Krill said. “The conversation has been sparked.”

Article Name
The interwoven social fabric of substance abuse and attorneys
A recent study published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine delved into the extent of substance use disorders (SUDs) and mental health issues among attorneys. Lead author, Patrick Krill, founder and principal of Krill Strategies — a behavioral and consulting company focused on reducing mental health and addiction issues among lawyers — initially began treating addiction within the law community as a clinician. The research was a collaboration by the American Bar Association and the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and assessed 12,825 licensed and employed attorneys on alcohol and drug use, and symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress.
Cesar Gamboa
Publisher Name
Addiction Now