It’s no secret that lawyers are a highly respected profession. The legal profession isn’t without its challenges, as with any career. As an attorney, you may experience anxiety and depression during law school.
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The profession’s alcoholism is often in the news because lawyers and law students have more “problem drinking” than other adults. This article examines alcohol abuse in legal profession to aid students and lawyers in preventing an addiction from developing.
The 2016 Study
Although concerns over attorney drinking started in the 1990s and have remained so since then. In 2016, the American Bar Association (ABA), in partnership with the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, (HBFF), conducted a comprehensive analysis of almost 13,000 judges. The Journal of Addiction Medicine published the results.
Problem drinking is defined as “hazardous and harmful drinking that can lead to alcohol dependence.” Some of the results include:
One in three judges and lawyers has a drinking problem, compared to only 6% of the population. Only 15% of surgeons (a profession that is comparatively high-skilled) reported similar drinking problems.
Why are so many lawyers drinking?
Many mental health professionals and attorneys are beginning to speculate about the origin of the apparent correlation between alcohol and the legal profession.
Mental anguish is inevitable when you have to work long hours, and your profession is built on winning and losing. Young lawyers are more likely to have problems with drinking than others and are facing difficulties in finding work and paying student loans.
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Although debt and job competition cannot be eliminated, there are other factothat can be reduced to reduce alcoholism in lawyers. Lawyers ofters n focus on perfection and strength. Lawyers often avoid seeking the help they need, as they are afraid to admit their weaknesses. However, opening up may be the key to preventing anxiety, depression and alcoholism.
The ABA and other organizations echo similar messages and stress the importance to seek health before a seemingly harmless drinking habit becomes out of control.
Concern for law students
The media has focused on law student mental health and alcohol misuse, just as attorney mental health has been the focus. Numerous studies have been done that found similar results to the 2016 attorney study. Many law students feel anxious, depressed and turn to substance abuse to alleviate stress.
Law students, like attorneys, are encouraged to talk with their loved ones and professionals who can help prevent drinking and mental anguish. However, law schools are being pressured to prevent students from drinking excessively. Many student events, such as tailgates and the Barrister’s ball, involve drinking as part of their fun. Students can reduce stress by having a social life. However, alcohol should not be the main focus.
Although many students will be responsible at these events, it is a good idea to take precautions so that drinking habits don’t spiral out of control. Assistance for yourself and other lawyers in dealing with a potential drinking problem
It is important to have loved ones and attorneys to prevent an alcohol problem from becoming a serious addiction. The following are signs that indicate an alcohol dependency according to the ABA:
- Behavior changes (they arrive late at work or leave early).
- Changes in work product (they reduce production or cause a decrease in quality)
- Isolation: They stop attending work-related functions and communicating with colleagues.
- Noticable mood changes in irritability and apathy
- They may be able to smell alcohol in later stages of alcohol problems..
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They avoid being asked about problems or insist that nothing has changed.
If you are unsure if your alcohol consumption is bordering on addiction or dependency, consider the following warning signs from HBFF:
- You are unable to limit how much alcohol you consume
- Feeling a strong desire or compulsion for alcohol
- Tolerating alcohol in excess so you can feel its effects more often
- Drinking can lead to legal problems, financial problems, or difficulties in relationships, employment, or finances.
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Drinking in private or alone
- When you stop drinking, you may experience physical withdrawal symptoms such as shaking, nausea, sweating, or shaking.
- Sometimes referred to by “blacking out”, the inability to remember conversations and commitments.
- Establishing a ritual of drinking at specific times, and getting annoyed when the ritual is interrupted or questioned.
- You are losing interest in hobbies and activities that once brought you joy
- Irritability as your normal drinking time approaches, especially if you don’t have alcohol available
- Keep alcohol out of reach at home, work, and in your car.
- Drinking to feel normal, drinking, ordering doubles or intoxication intentionally.