It’s no secret that substance use disorders carry a heavy stigma. Many people associate alcoholism or drug abuse with a certain type of person, someone who doesn’t contribute to society, lives out of their car or on the street and can’t hold down a job. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Addiction is a disease and it can affect anyone. In fact, there’s data proving that many employed people struggle with substance abuse, with particularly high rates amongst those in the hotel and food services industry (17%), construction (14%) and entertainment (13%). But new data out in May shows that the legal profession is the latest industry to be hit hard by addiction.

Lawyers and Mental Health: What the Data Says

A recent survey by the California Lawyers Association and the D.C. Bar administered during the pandemic looked at risk factors for mental health problems among licensed attorneys. The results showed that more than 50 percent of the attorneys screened positive for risky drinking, and 30 percent screened for high-risk hazardous drinking (which translates as alcohol abuse or possible dependence). According to Patrick Krill, a lawyer and licensed drug and alcohol counselor who also spearheaded the study, The Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test-Consumption was used to assess whether respondents engaged in risky or hazardous drinking.

In addition, the survey findings show that female lawyers are experiencing significantly worse mental health issues, based on answers to standard questions assessing depression, anxiety and stress symptoms. As a result, 25 percent of female lawyers are considering leaving the legal profession altogether, due to mental health distress and burnout.

Surely, the timing of this study also played a role in the findings. We know from research gathered in 2020 that almost universally, the level of stress and anxiety is up significantly due to the pandemic, as well as alcohol consumption. This study is consistent with those trends, showing that 34.6 percent of the women and 29.2 percent of the men reported that their drinking had increased during the pandemic.

This concrete data proves that the legal industry has its work cut out for it in addressing and working to improve the mental health of its practitioners. In addition to making tailored programming available, law firms and other legal service providers should consider adding substance use disorder treatment and counseling to its medical benefits offerings. Lionrock works with most major insurance companies and partners with both employers and benefit brokers to provide the right level of care to address substance use disorders among employees. Businesses interested in working with Lionrock can learn more here.