Lawyers and Alcohol Abuse

Lawyers had a rate of problem drinking three times higher than the general public.


Many of America's lawyers face a potentially serious health issue.

A new study from Hazelden Betty Ford found that problem drinking among lawyers was significantly higher compared to the general public. Men and younger lawyers were most likely to display problem drinking behaviors.

Moderate alcohol consumption is one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men, according to the medical resource Up To Date. Problem drinking interferes with a person's professional or personal life.

Problem drinking is a sign that the drinker is beginning to lose control over his or her drinking. It includes excessive alcohol consumption and binge drinking.

Lawyers may be more prone to problem drinking because of the way they are taught and socialized, according to lead author Patrick Krill.

In an email for an interview in the Washington Post, Krill commented that lawyers "prioritize success and accomplishment over things like balance, personal well-being, health, etc.”

He added, “You put them through a training (law school) where they are taught to work harder, play harder, and assume the role of a tough, capable and aggressive professional without personal weaknesses or deficiencies."

Krill is a former lawyer and the director of the Legal Professionals Program at Hazelden Betty Ford.

Krill and colleagues surveyed more than 12,000 American lawyers.

Study participants were asked to answer questions about alcohol use and drug use. They answered questions about stress and symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Study participants also provided demographic information, like sex and age.

The researchers found 20 percent of study participants reported problem drinking behaviors.

Men were more likely to report problem drinking behaviors than women. Younger attorneys (those aged 30 or younger) were also more likely to report problem drinking behaviors.

Attorneys also reported significant levels of anxiety, stress and depression. 19 percent reported anxiety. 23 percent reported stress and 28 percent reported depression.

"Heavy drinking, lack of balance and poor self-care are entirely normalized," Krill said in the email. "That's the behavior that young lawyers see being modeled all around them, and throughout the profession."

The study was published in the February Journal of Addiction Medicine.

Funding for the study was provided by the Hazelden Betty Ford Center and the American Bar Association.

Specific information on conflict of interest was not available, but Krill works for Hazelden Betty Ford.