Passing the Other Bars

The American Bar Association, in cooperation with the Hazelden Betty Ford network of addiction treatment centers, is conducting a wide-scale study to assess the alcohol, drug and mental health issues found in the legal profession. Although those results won’t be available until next year, similar studies in the 1990s found that lawyers have 3.6 times the rate of depression as other occupational groups, as well as higher rates of alcohol and substance abuse.

An ABA survey published last year found that 76 percent of issues addressed by lawyer assistance programs were related to alcohol abuse, followed by prescription drug abuse at 9.8 percent. Such statistics may be the unfortunate byproduct of the pressures and competition inherent in the legal profession. For lawyers, some specific signs of alcohol or drug impairment may include missing court dates, failing to file documents, and appearing in court intoxicated or impaired.

Experts say there’s evidence of a growing number of lawyers with multiple addictions beyond alcohol, such as abuse of prescription pain medications, antianxiety drugs such as Xanax and Valium, and stimulants that include Adderall, particularly among younger attorneys and law students.

While it’s important for attorneys to be prepared to self-analyze about any addiction problems, unfortunately it’s often up to peers, judges and disciplinary panels to refer lawyers to one of the many assistance programs that are available in virtually every state. The outstanding Texas Lawyers Assistance Program operated by the State Bar includes experienced counselors and a confidential network of peer support and education. TLAP can be reached 24 hours a day at 800-343-8527.

Posted: 8/26/2014 8:10:30 AM by Editor | with 0 comments

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About This Blog

Thanks for stopping by On the Merits, the first blog from the Texas Center for Legal Ethics. On the Merits will take a close look at significant legal stories with an eye toward addressing the legal myths and misconceptions that turn up in news stories, movies, TV programs, websites, anonymous emails and other forms of mass communications. Our goal at On the Merits is to provide readers with a thoughtful examination of what the media and others are saying about the legal profession and to apply the frequently-absent context of how the legal system actually works.

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