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Food & Health

Does Substance Abuse Create A Cycle Of Depression and Burnout?

2 Mins read

The legal profession exposes men and women to the many ugly sides of humanity. Justice is, in a sense, the best attempt humans have made to date to address anger and disputes, as well as re-balance society in the wake of wrongdoing. Add this to the demands placed on lawyers, throw in the pressure, and then top it all off with the negative consequences these elements of the profession have on the family of a person practicing law. The consequences are often, understandably albeit unfortunately, depression, burnout, substance abuse, or all of the above.

When more than one of these negative consequences commonly associated with the legal profession are at play, it becomes increasingly difficult to solve the problems for good. It’s a whack a mole kind of situation; striking down depression or burnout is seemingly achieved, but through drug and alcohol abuse.

Lawyers are not particularly susceptible to burnout and depression, but the increased likelihood of high stakes professionals falling prey to these negative career consequences are well documented. According to the experts at, one phenomenon is known as “executive burnout”  and affects professionals from all walks of life. Hallmarks of executive burnout are a cynical and critical outlook at work, an unpleasurable drive to succeed, and even the common headache and back pain.

However, the phenomenon of executive burnout is not the only problem here – depression is, of course, the other. Determining which is happening is a crucial step in dealing with the elephant in the room. That elephant is drug and alcohol addiction.

Does Substance Abuse Create A Cycle Of Depression and Burnout?

The dependence on substances to “get through the day” is something billions of humans deal with. Yes, billions. This figure includes the men and women out there who depend on caffeine, cigarettes, or both to stay focused and stave off negative thoughts and feelings. Caffeine is, of course, not commonly associated with negative health consequences like cigarettes or worse substances, but this inclusion highlights the simple fact that humans are predominantly dependent on mind-altering substances to succeed. Readers with a more pressing substance abuse problem need not feel alone.

The ultimate question is whether or not substance abuse, regardless of the particular substance or intended consequence, inevitably leads to a vicious cycle wherein burnout and/or depression are recycled in the aftermath of usage. The answer is, according to medical professionals and the aforementioned rehab experts: absolutely.

Therefore the slaying of any particular dragon, be it depression or burnout, is difficult for legal professions to accomplish if dependence on substances is already in the rotation. When the dependence is disrupted for health, legal, financial, or supply related reasons, the consequence is commonly a descent into mental anguish. Friends and loved ones unaware of the substance problem are left confused and conflicted regarding how to help.

Okay so, what’s the takeaway, then? The lesson for lawyers out there suffering from depression and/or burnout while simultaneously facing a substance abuse problem is to get your ducks in a row. Face the drug and/or alcohol demons first, and go after the mental health when substances are no longer part of the arsenal.

The result is, hopefully, an end to the “chicken and the egg” pattern of depression/burnout and substance abuse. While lawyers are never going to completely escape the nasty truths about humanity due to the nature of the profession, they can take the right series of steps to prevent these ugly realities from inciting ugliness within themselves.

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