I have spent most of the last seven years working exclusively with impaired lawyers in a residential setting as the Executive Director of Legal Professional programs at HazeldenBettyFord and more recently at Caron Treatment Centers. This year I also helped plan and spoke at the Senior Lawyers Division’s Opioid Summit.
This epidemic—the worst in our history—has been increasingly addressed and analyzed over the past several years. Books such as Dreamland by Sam Quinones and the newly-published Dopesick by Beth Macy read like harrowing novels. In-depth academic articles such as National Opioid Epidemic is Cause to Examine the Legal Profession’s Own Problems with Addiction (ABA Health ESource, Volume 13, No. 2) by Karen Harris and Patrick Krill take the step of evaluating the root causes of increasing opioid use by lawyers. Finally, a superb and jarring feature in the New York Times, The Lawyer, The Addict by Eilene Zimmerman tracked the heroin overdose death of a 49-year-old superstar Silicon Valley lawyer who had presented as fully-functioning (and under the radar) for decades.
This piece makes no attempt to replicate the insights of this literature or that of others. It is simply intended to briefly capture my current insights into the role of opioids in the lives of impaired lawyers: a population already identified as the most addicted of all professions.