Prescription drugs now the No. 2 addiction problem handled by lawyer assistance programs


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Prescription drugs follow alcohol as the most commonly abused substances by lawyers seeking help through state support programs, according to a survey by the ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs.

Prescription drugs accounted for as many matters handled by the state programs as cocaine, methamphetamines and heroin combined. A press release has highlights from the survey report (PDF). Lawyer assistance programs received an online link to the 2012 survey in January 2013; 48 states and the District of Columbia responded.

Substance abuse and addiction were the most common issues handled by the programs, with respondents estimating on average that slightly more than 50 percent of the issues they handled fell in these categories, the report says. The second most common issue was mental health, with respondents estimating on average that 32.6 percent of the issues were of this nature.

When asked to provide a breakdown of the type of substance abuse and addiction issues handled by the programs, the averages were: 75 percent of the substance abuse/addiction issues concerned alcohol, 10 percent concerned prescription drugs, 5 percent concerned cocaine, 3 percent concerned marijuana, 2 percent concerned methamphetamine, 2 percent concerned hallucinogenic drugs, and 1 percent concerned heroin. Over-the-counter drugs and “other” accounted for the other 2 percent.

The most common prescription drug issue concerned pain medication, a problem, on average, in 74 percent of such cases.

The most common mental health issues were depression (41 percent) and anxiety disorders (23 percent).

Budgets for the state assistance programs ranged from 0 (Alabama, Alaska, and Vermont used volunteers to run their programs) to $1.215 million (in Massachusetts).

The ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs supports state bar-sponsored and other lawyer assistance programs, the press release explains. It also develops policies to keep lawyers and judges who suffer from stress, addiction and related problems from harming clients and the public while enabling them to get the help they need. COLAP’s directory of state programs is available here.

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