ave you ever wondered,
when a colleague is not
performing or is “off”
These days lawyers have to
deal with many temptations,
along with the classic alcohol
and drug addictions, the Internet has made other addictions
more pervasive than ever before.
From online gambling to addiction to Internet porn, there are
more demons than ever to
deflect in today’s world of
Mental health issues are a
big issue for the modern lawyer.
In a 2008 study Susan Daicoff,
a professor at Florida Coastal
School of Law, noted approximately 20 per cent of the entire
legal profession suffers from
clinically significant levels of
substance abuse, depression,
anxiety or some other form of
psychopathology, said a report
in the National Law Journal.
There are two definitions of
addiction I like:
The myths of addiction
Various fictions surround addictions. Here are some
of them with the reasons they are invalid.
Addicts need to hit rock bottom before
they can accept help //Quite the
contrary. “The earlier in the addiction
process that you can intervene and get
someone help, the more they have to
live for,” says Kathleen Brady, a
professor at the Medical University of
South Carolina. The longer the addiction
continues, the stronger it becomes and
the harder it is to treat.
If you are concerned what do you do?
This step is taking action. This is a difficult thing to do — to approach a
colleague and indicate a concern and offer help. Personal behaviour is a
private matter and crossing the boundary to suggest a problem or offer help is
often considered out of bounds. Lawyers often practise alone and are isolated
even if they work in a large law firm. There are things to consider before
taking action that will help the process.
Addiction is a willpower problem. People
can stop, if they really want to //As the
brain structure changes, addicts
physically and emotionally depend on
the substance they abuse. It causes the
addict to crave the drug even more,
making it increasingly difficult to quit.
1. Addiction is a continued
escalating repeated behaviour
despite knowledge of negative
consequences and knowledge of
harm to self or others. Symptoms are biological, cognitive
and behavioural, according to
the Diagnostic Services Manual
IV Mental Disorders. This is the
classic act of doing the same
thing over and over again
expecting a different result.
Addicts are bad, crazy or stupid. They
just have a character flaw //Addiction is
an equal opportunity disease. It can
affect Park Avenue and park bench,
young and old, educated and not.
Addictions can hit young female lawyers
just starting out, and it can hit older
male lawyers close to
retirement — addictions does not
n;Be informed. Take the time to
know the common signs of addiction
and their results.
n;Be non-judgmental. It’s important
to make observations rather than
conclusions about the behaviour
you have noticed.
n;Be aware and alert. It is easy to
hope that this is not a problem and
that it will go away. It is easy to look
the other way and dismiss some of
the signs that you have identified.
n;Be concerned and caring. A first
approach should always be based
on concern for the individual, the
family and the law practice. You
should not be threatening and
accusatory as this will reinforce the
denial that is so much part of any
n;Be honest and direct. Identify
your concern and the thoughts
behind it. If you have personal
experience with addiction in yourself
or in your family or friends, it’s often
helpful to include your thoughts and
share your experience.
n;Approach the colleague with
respect. It’s important to acknow-
ledge the positives and the value that
you hold for the other person based
on your work together.
n;Know or find out the resources
for help. Have options available to
offer and encourage. Be able to pro-
vide the contact information for your
provincial lawyers’ assistance pro-
gram (all numbers available at
www.lpac.ca), an AA group or a
n;Facilitate help. Offer to follow up
and/or support the person with any
decision to get further help or to think
about the consequences.
n;Promote prevention. Your example
and responsible behaviour is important.
There is no failure. No matter what happens as a result of the contact,
your colleague will remember that you took the time and made the
effort to show concern.
Addicts should be punished, not treated
for using substances //Addicts need
treatment for changed brain chemistry
to learn to cope with control over use,
identification of triggers and learning to
resocialize and live without substances.
Addiction comes in many forms, here are some websites that can help those
impacted by addiction:
2. “Alcoholism (addiction) is a
brain disease. Addiction has
been shown to have both a cause
and effect relationship to changes in brain structure and function. It is a relationship that
makes addiction a disease of the
brain, not a moral failing,”
according to Dr. Graeme Cun-ningham, addictions director,
Homewood Health Services in
Addiction is a disease: There is nothing
you can do about it // That does not
mean that you are a helpless victim.
The brain changes can be reversed
through sobriety, therapy, medication
When do you act?
The sooner the better. You
could help save a career and
you could help save a life.
John Starzynski is the volunteer
executive director of the Ontario
Lawyers Assistance Program
(OLAP) and a director of the
Legal Profession Assistance Conference (LPAC).