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Raising awareness of binge drinking among lawyers

by Anne Chambers, LCSW 

April is #AlcoholAwarenessMonth. It will probably come as no surprise that binge drinking is the most common pattern of excess alcohol use in the United States. What constitutes a binge? According to the CDC and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, a binge is having four or more drinks for a female and five or more drinks for a male in about two hours. Many people who binge drink exceed this threshold. One in four adult binge drinkers have eight or more drinks in a single setting. Half of the people who view themselves as moderate drinkers engage in binge drinking.  

Binge drinking has its own risks: 

  • Binges are hard on the circulatory system. The CDC identifies health risks associated with binge drinking as high blood pressure, stroke, liver and heart disease, certain types of cancer, memory issues, and poorer pregnancy outcomes. 
  • Because binging can impair judgement, there is a risk of accidents and injuries such as motor vehicle accidents, falls, and alcohol poisoning. The CDC estimates about 2,300 deaths a year are attributed to alcohol poisoning.  
  • The National Institute of Health indicates binge drinkers are 13 times more likely to need emergency room care. People who engage in high-intensity drinking, consuming double the amount of a binge, are 70 times more likely.   
  • Societal costs include lower productivity, medical expenses, and criminal justice costs.  

Recent research regarding lawyer well-being suggests that risky drinking in the legal profession has risen. Patrick Krill, JD, and Justin Anker, MD, with the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Minnesota recently released the results of a survey taken in 2020. They randomly sampled members of the California Lawyers Association and the DC Bar, with a final sample size of 2,864 employed, practicing lawyers. In their key findings, Krill and Anker found that a significantly higher proportion of women lawyers engaged in risky drinking. In total, 56% of women reported risky drinking compared to 46% of men. In addition, 34% of women reported hazardous drinking versus 25% of men.  

Male lawyers who reported increased drinking due to deal with the impact of COVID-related stress were more four times more likely to be drinking at hazardous levels; women who reported doing so were seven times more likely. The authors noted this may be an early warning sign since drinking to cope with negative emotions and anxiety can increase the risk of alcohol dependence.

If you’re considering making changes, we’re here to help! The Missouri Lawyers’ Assistance Program offers free, confidential substance screenings. To schedule an appointment or talk now, call 1-800-688-7859. Face-to-face sessions are also available by appointment on our face-to-face virtual platform at https://molap.doxy.me. Here’s to your well-being!