Addiction Reaches Every Corner of Society

The University of Southern California is reeling under allegations of campus drug use by the former medical school dean, Dr. Carmen A. Puliafito, who has been fired. People are calling this situation a scandal, which it is in the way the university covered it up, but I view this as more of a tragedy. Addiction is an issue that impacts almost every organization and every walk of life. It is an illness that is poorly understood and even more poorly treated. Addiction never happens in a vacuum. There are always indicators that there is an issue. What is lacking are appropriate interventions. If a school of medicine fails to understand this, how in the world can we possibly expect other organizations to do so?

 Last week, I blogged about the tragic death of a lawyer who was lost to addiction. It is incumbent on every organization to contact professionals who deal with addictions in order to recognize the indicators, understand the positive methods by which to intervene at the earliest possible stage, and learn how to support the individual. Bystanders, friends and family also have an obligation here. They almost always know there is something amiss. To them I offer the same advice—educate yourself. The life you save may be someone very close to you.

Andrew Faas is the author of From Bully to Bull’s-Eye: Move Your Organization Out of the Line of Fire

Photo credit: USC

Workplace Culture Contributed to Lawyer’s Death from Addiction

Attorneys may be the last profession to recognize the need for psychologically healthy, safe and fair workplaces, but as Eilene Zimmerman points out in her New York Times article, “The Lawyer, the Addict,” they need them as much as everyone else. The article is a heartbreaking examination of what drove her ex-husband, a successful patent attorney, to the drug addiction that eventually killed him and how everyone in his life missed the red flags.

Lawyers are notorious for working 60 hour weeks driven by competition for dwindling jobs, professional rivalry and the need to achieve a certain number of billable hours. The effect can take quite a toll. A report in the Journal of Addiction Medicine found that 21 percent of lawyers qualify as problem drinkers, 28 percent struggle with depression and 19 percent struggle with anxiety. The numbers reporting drug use are much lower, which is unsurprising for officers of the court. Attorneys don’t seem to be more predisposed to addiction than other profession. In fact, studies of incoming law students have shown them as being more physically and psychologically healthy compared to other graduate students.  Clearly the workplace culture and the legal training take a toll.

The sad truth is that there is no segment of society immune from issues with mental health and/or addiction. What is truly tragic in Zimmerman’s story is the fact that there were bright red flags everywhere, but both the workplace culture in law firms and society’s mental picture of successful lawyers rendered them invisible.

Andrew Faas is the author of From Bully to Bull’s-Eye: Move Your Organization Out of the Line of Fire

Photo credit: BIGSTOCK