Substance Abuse/Dependency

Addiction - the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, as narcotics, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma.


Addiction IS NOT a moral failing, the result of a lack of willpower, or a manifestation of "bad character".  Since the mid-1950's, the American Medical Association has defined the condition as a progressive, incurable, and fetal disease, having both biopsychosocial and genetic components.

In 2002, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration estimated that 9.4 percent of Americans age 12 and older could be classified as substance abusers or substance dependent. According to the American Bar Association, the corresponding estimate for lawyers is nearly double--15 to 18 percent.

It's not all about alcohol and drugs either.  Process addiction is an addiction to an activity or process, such as eating, spending money, or gambling. These addictive behaviors can be as debilitating as those associated with substance addictions, and they require psychological treatment. People sometimes have difficulty understanding process addictions, because they believe that people should just be able to stop negative behavior, but people with process addictions face the same problems that people with substance addictions do.

Self Test for Substance Abuse or Dependence

CAGE Screening Test Questions:

  • Have you ever felt you ought to Cut down on your drinking or drug use?
  • Do you get Annoyed at criticism of your drinking or drug use?
  • Do you ever feel Guilty about your drinking or drug use?
  • Do you ever take an Early-morning drink (eye-opener) or use drugs first thing in the morning ("a little hair of the dog that bit you") to get the day started or to eliminate the "shakes"?

A person who answers "yes," "sometimes," or "often" to 2 or more of the questions may have a problem with alcohol.

At the Lawyers and Judges Assistance Program, it is our belief that if you are asking the questions, it's likely a problem or at least its potential exists.  Our program can help you to identify the problem and the solutions.

The table below is intended to provide a broad and general examination of some of the signs and symptoms that are often associated with drug abuse, alcohol abuse, and/or depression.  This table is presented with thanks to G. Douglas Talbott, M.D. and Linda R. Crosby, MSN, Talbott Recovery Campus, Atlanta, GA.

















Withdrawal from activities



Multiple complaints



Decrease in community affairs



Disorganized appointment schedule



Inappropriate behavior, moods



Frequent absences



Increased use of prescription medication



Change of friends, acquaintances



Hostile behavior to staff and/or clients



Decreasing quality of performance



Frequent arguments; child/spousal abuse



Increased hospitalizations



Drunk & disorderly, DUI arrests



"Locked door" syndrome (using it at work)



Inappropriate pleadings, decisions



Family members display codependent behaviors



Frequent visits to physicians, dentists



Loss of confidence in attorney by community leaders



Borrowing money from co-workers, staff



Co-workers and staff "gossip" about changes in



Children engage in abnormal, antisocial, or illegal



Personal hygiene, dress deteriorate



Involvement with place of worship changes



Frequently sick



Malpractice and disciplinary claims



Sexual problems (impotence, affair)



Accidents, trauma, ER visits



Sexual promiscuity



Clients begin to complain to associates, staff



Missed hearings, appointments, depositions


This series of questions about one's use of alcohol or drugs is an informal inventory of "tell-tale signs" with many items tailored to lawyers.  It is not a list of official diagnostic criteria and does not substitute for a professional evaluation (which LJA Program personnel can provide in person or refer you to a certified evaluator).

When attempting to assess signs and symptoms, it is important to note that marked changes in behavior or affect are the clearest indication that there may be a problem.  Such changes may or may not fit clearly into the categories above, but are noteworthy nonetheless.

Substance Abuse / Addiction Self-Test

  1. Do I plan my office routine around my drinking / drug use?
  2. Have I tried unsuccessfully to control or abstain from alcohol or drugs?
  3. Do my clients, associates, or support personnel contend that my alcohol/drug use interferes with my work?
  4. Have I avoided important professional, social, or recreational activities as a result of my alcohol/drug use?
  5. Do I ever use alcohol or drugs before meetings or court appearances to calm my nerves or to fee el more confident of my performance?
  6. Do I frequently drink or use drugs alone?
  7. Have I ever neglected the running of my office or misused funds because of my alcohol or drug use?
  8. Have I ever had a loss of memory when I seemed to be alert and functioning but had been using alcohol or drugs?
  9. Have I missed or adjourned closings, court appearances, or other appointments because of my alcohol/drug use?
  10. Is drinking or drug use leading me to become careless of my family's welfare or other personal responsibilities?
  11. Has my ambition or efficiency decreased along with an increase in my use of drugs or alcohol?
  12. Have I continued to drink or use drugs despite adverse consequences to my practice, health, legal status, or family relationships?
  13. Are strong emotions, related to my drinking or drug use (e.g. fear, guilt, depression, severe anxiety) interfering with my ability to function professional?
  14. Are otherwise close friends avoiding being around me because of my alcohol or drug use?
  15. Have I been neglecting my hygiene, health care, or nutrition?
  16. Am I becoming increasingly reluctant to face my clients or colleagues in order to hide my alcohol/drug use? 

A "yes" answer to any of these questions suggests that it would be wise to seek professional evaluation (at LJAP or elsewhere), but may not indicate that you have a diagnosable addictive disorder.  Evaluations of alcohol/drug problems should be done by a clinician with addiction credentials and/or experience working in an addiction-oriented setting.

When attempting to assess signs and symptoms, it is important to note that marked changes in behavior or affect are the clearest indication that there may be a problem.  Such changes may or may not fit clearly into the categories above, but are noteworthy nonetheless.

"Quick fixes" & "cure-alls" are generally neither.

Persons "recovering" from mental illness and addiction can lead successful lives personally and professionally.
If/when you have concerns about yourself or someone you know, and want to know more, please contact LJAP.  Remember:

LJA Program Services Are:

Available at NO Charge

Persons suffering in active addiction (even "severe" and/or long-term cases) can "stop" with effective treatment, aftercare, and effective management of their recovery over time.

Treatment works and recovery is possible.

Please contact our office or an LJA Program volunteer in your area.  For a list of LJA Program volunteers across the state click here.

Dr. Jessica Cole, LPC-S, NCC
Lawyers and Judges Assistance Program Director
Office: 601-948-0989  
Director's Direct Line: 601-948-4475
Email: [email protected]

Carolyn Barrett, Office Administrator & Monitoring Coordinator
Lawyers and Judges Assistance Program
Telephone: 601-948-0989
Email: [email protected]