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January 13, 2021

Drug Use Disorders

What are Drug Use Disorders

Drug use disorders, also known as addiction, are chronic and progressive diseases. Drug addiction in any form – from cocaine to methamphetamine to prescription pain relievers and stimulants - changes the brain. Individuals with a drug use disorder may not be able to control how much they use and continue to use drugs despite serious consequences. 

It is possible to recover from a drug use disorder and there are many resources available for help.

Symptoms of Drug Use Disorders

Symptoms of drug use disorders may differ, as each drug has different effects. Below are general symptoms associated with drug use:

  • Bloodshot eyes or pupils that are larger or smaller than usual.
  • Changes in appetite or sleep patterns. Sudden weight loss or weight gain.
  • Deterioration of physical appearance and personal grooming habits.
  • Unusual smells on breath, body, or clothing.
  • Tremors, slurred speech, or impaired coordination.
  • Drop in attendance and performance at work or school.
  • Unexplained need for money or financial problems. May borrow or steal to get it.
  • Engaging in secretive or suspicious behaviors.
  • Sudden change in friends, favorite hangouts, and hobbies.
  • Frequently getting into trouble (fights, accidents, illegal activities).
  • Unexplained change in personality or attitude.
  • Sudden mood swings, irritability, or angry outbursts.
  • Periods of unusual hyperactivity, agitation, or giddiness.
  • Lack of motivation; appears lethargic or “spaced out.”
  • Appears fearful, anxious, or paranoid, with no reason.

Treatment of Drug Use Disorders

Drug use disorders are treatable. A healthcare professional will develop a tailored treatment approach – one that takes into account the individual’s drug use patterns and any co-occurring medical, psychiatric and social problems. A treatment strategy may also include participation in support groups, which are often helpful in the recovery process.

How Drug Use Disorders Affect Lawyers

It is clear that drug use disorders can have a devastating effect on a lawyer’s career and personal life. Lawyers impacted by drug use disorder may also create problems for their family, employer and profession.

Lawyer assistance programs (LAPs) are here to support lawyers, judges, students and other legal professionals who suffer from drug use disorders. Contact your state or local LAP..

How to Help a Colleague

If you believe a colleague may have a problem with drugs, encourage him or her to seek help. Contact a LAP for additional support and resources.