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Struggling With Addiction? Lawyers Assistance Programs Can Help

By William Vogeler, Esq. on January 05, 2018 1:00 PM

Peter was a successful patent lawyer and also a drug addict.

But no one, except perhaps his junkies, knew about his drug problem -- until the day he died. His ex-wife found crystal meth, cocaine, Xanax, Adderall, Vicodin, and a potpourri of other pills in his house.

Like most drug-addicted lawyers, Peter wouldn't get help for his problem. But there is help, if they stop running from it.

Admitting the Problem

Bree Buchanan, chair of the ABA Commission on Lawyers Assistance Programs, recently talked about the problem in the profession. She said studies show most lawyers won't seek help because they fear ruining their reputation.

"Lawyers with major depression or substance abuse disorders will go underground, and are really good at hiding these things," Buchanan said in a podcast published by the ABA Journal.

Brian Cuban, a lawyer and author of "The Addicted Lawyer: Tales of the Bar, Booze, Blow and Redemption," fought it until his employer threatened to fire him.

"I kept thinking: 'I'm not going to rehab," he said. "I'm a lawyer, lawyers don't go to rehab, they aren't in 12-step programs.'"

Lawyer Assistance Programs

As it turned out, half the people Cuban got to know in his program were lawyers.

The ABA's lawyer assistance assistance programs offer help to attorneys, judges, and law students with alcoholism, substance abuse, or mental health issues.

The ABA website has a new podcast series about overcoming such problems, and features lawyers who share personal struggles to encourage others to confront theirs.

Unlike Peter, these are attorneys who survived to tell their stories.

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