Addiction in the Legal Profession

Man in legal profession struggling with addiction

Substance abuse, addiction, and co-occurring mental health disorders are affecting lawyers throughout the United States at alarming rates. A recent study of licensed, employed attorneys nationwide found that more than 20 percent screened positive for “hazardous, harmful, and potentially alcohol-dependent drinking [1].”

Anxiety, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and suicidal ideation were also commonly reported among the more than 12,500 attorneys surveyed.

In his brand new best-selling book The Addicted Lawyer: Tales of the Bar, Booze, Blow, and Redemption, Brian Cuban, attorney, author, and advocate, sheds light on the prevalence of addiction in the legal field and unique triggers impacting lawyers today.

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Why Do Lawyers Struggle with Addiction?

A combination of biological, psychological, and environmental factors contribute to the development of substance abuse and addiction. For attorneys and other legal professionals, high levels of stress, long work hours, and constant pressure undoubtedly play a role.

Young attorneys fresh out of law school might find that the stress of studying for the bar, mounting student loan debt, and job insecurity also serve as significant triggers.

Lawyer Sitting At A Table With Hands Clasped

In his new book, Brian Cuban shares that his own alcohol abuse became unmanageable after passing the bar exam in 1991.

“By that time,” he explains, “I’d been using alcohol heavily since college. There is no doubt in my mind that I fit the criteria for alcohol use disorder, in other terms, ‘an alcoholic,’ but it was around this time that my use of drugs and alcohol began to accelerate off the rails of addiction [2].”

Many attorneys are hesitant to seek out treatment due to the impact it might have on their legal careers. However, practicing law while battling severe substance abuse or addiction not only puts their mental and physical health at risk, it also raises serious ethical questions.

The American Bar Association encourages any attorneys struggling to connect with their local lawyer assistance program (LAP) for support [3].

Courtney HowardAbout the Author: Courtney Howard is the Director of Operations at Eating Disorder Hope. She graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. from San Diego State University, holds a paralegal certificate in Family Law, and is a Certified Domestic Violence Advocate.

After obtaining her certification as a life coach, Courtney launched Lionheart Eating Disorder Recovery Coaching in 2015 and continues to be a passionate advocate for awareness and recovery.


[1] Krill, P., et al. (2016). “The Prevalence of Substance Use and Other Mental Health Concerns Among American Attorneys.” Journal of Addiction Medicine:  February 2016 – Volume 10 – Issue 1 – p 46–52. doi: 10.1097/ADM.0000000000000182
[2]: Cuban, B. (2017). The Addicted Lawyer: Tales of the Bar, Booze, Blow, and Redemption. S.l.: Post Hill PR.
[3]: American Bar Association – Drug Abuse & Dependence. Retrieved June 15, 2017, from

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published on June 15, 2017.
Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on June 15, 2017
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About Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC

Jacquelyn Ekern founded Addiction Hope in January, 2013, after experiencing years of inquiries for addiction help by visitors to our well regarded sister site, Eating Disorder Hope. Many of the eating disorder sufferers that contact Eating Disorder Hope also had a co-occurring issue of addiction to alcohol, drugs, and process addictions.