Lawyers Three Times More Likely to Become Problem Drinkers than General Population

Saturday, February 06, 2016
(photo: Getty)

By Jeff D. Gorman, Courthouse News Service


(CN) - Lawyers are three times more likely to become problem drinkers than the rest of the population, a joint study by the American Bar Association and Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation found.


Published in the February 2016 issue of the Journal of Addiction Medicine, the study says one in every five practicing attorneys qualifies as a problem drinker.


While 28 percent of attorneys struggle with depression, 19 percent show signs of anxiety, the study found.


One lawyer told the Chicago Tribune that drinking was a way for him to join the culture of the law firm when he started his career.


"There was a significant amount of pressure early on to fit in, and usually that is done through cocktails," said Robert, whose last name was not included in the article.


Prosecutor Kelly Olmstead told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that some lawyers turn to alcohol as an outlet from the stressful practice of law.


"You take people's problems and fears and worries and their freedom home with you at night, and when you win or lose a case, you know that is somebody's life," Olmstead said.


Almost 15,000 attorneys from 19 states completed a survey for the study, which showed them to have a higher rate of alcoholism than doctors and other professionals.


"Any way you look at it, this data is very alarming," said the study's lead author, Patrick Krill, finding that the study reveals "an unsustainable professional culture that's harming too many people."


Lawyers in their first 10 years of practice were the most prone to problem drinking at 29 percent, according to the study.


Researchers also found that lawyers find it difficult to overcome the stigma of alcoholism to admit that they need help.


"The confidential nature of lawyer-assistance programs should be more widely publicized in an effort to overcome the privacy concerns that may create barriers between struggling attorneys and the help they need," the study concludes.


To Learn More:

Lawyers more likely to Lean Liberal; Judges more likely to Lean Conservative (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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