Study reveals shocking industry substance abuse figures

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In a new study published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine, a significant group among lawyers have been found to be struggling with substance abuse and other mental health issues.

The study, funded by the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and the American Bar Association, involved nearly 13,000 licensed and employed lawyers. They were studied for alcohol and drug use as well as depression, anxiety and stress.

The study found that 20.6% of respondents found to have “hazardous, harmful, and potentially alcohol-dependent drinking.”

Furthermore, the study found that 28.3%, 19.2%, and 22.7% of the lawyers studied were experiencing symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress, respectively.

In terms of problematic drinking, more men lawyers were struggling (25.1%) compared to women (15.5%). In terms of age, 31.9% of lawyers 30 years or younger more and 2lawyers under 40-years-old (25.1%) were also struggling with alcohol consumption.

Among those who thought their use of alcohol and other substances were problematic, 27.6% said use started before law school, 14.2% during law school, 43.7% in 15 years after law school and 14.6% in more than 15 years after law school.

In terms of overall substance use in the past 12 months, which includes both illicit and prescribed use, 84.1% used alcohol, 16.9% used tobacco, 15.7% used sedatives, 10.2% used marijuana, 5.6% used opioids, 4.8% used stimulants and 0.8% (or 107 individuals) used cocaine.

In terms of mental health issues, men were experiencing higher levels of depression while women were experiencing higher levels of anxiety and stress. Anxiety was reported by 61.1% of respondents, followed by 45.7% reporting depression, 16.1% social anxiety, 12.5% attention deficit hyperactive disorder,  8% panic disorder and 2.4% bipolar disorder.

Moreover, 11.5% reported suicidal thoughts, 2.9% self-harm behaviour, and 0.7% had attempted suicide at least once.

Comparing to other highly educated professionals, lawyers (20.6%) were struggling more than peers (11.8%) with problematic alcohol use.

The study involved 12,852 licensed and employed lawyers with 53.4% being men and 46.5% being women. Most of the subjects were Caucasian/white (91.3%).

In terms of age, 11.9% were 30 or younger, 25.2% were 31 to 40, 21% were 41 to 50, 23.2% were 51 to 60, 16.1% were 61 to 70 and 2.7% were 71 or older.

In terms of firm position, 2.5% were clerks or paralegals, 20.5% were junior associates, 20.3% were senior associates, 11.7% were junior partners, 25% were senior partners and 14.2% were managing partners.

In terms of years in the law industry, most said they had 0 to 10 years’ experience (34.8%) followed by 11 to 20 (22.7%), 21 to 30 (20.5%), 31 to 40 (17.2%) and 41 or more (4.7%).

In terms of hours worked per week, most reported 41 to 50 hours (44.2%), followed by 31 to 40 hours (23.2%), 51 to 60 hours (18.2%), 21 to 30 hours (4.7%), 61 to 70 hours (3.7%), 11 to 20 hours (3.2%), under 10 hours (1.9%) and 71 hours or more (1.1%).

Most respondents worked in private firms (40.9%); followed by sole practitioners or private practice (21%); in-house government, public or non-profit (19.6%); in-house corporate or for-profit (7.3%); judicial chambers (7.3%); other law practice setting (2.3%); college or law school (1.5%); other setting - not law practice (1.1%) and Bar Administration or Lawyers Assistance Program (0.4%).