We all know Elle Woods! The girl who owned law school while wearing killer boots and snagging the guy. Elle, along with cast of shows like How To Get Away With Murder and , make law school seem like one drama filled part. IT’S NOT!
Law school is hard work, its long hours, ridiculous amount of reading and excruciating pressure. Some days you will feel on top of the world, ready to fight against an unfair justice system, outsmart international crime syndicates and take a win for the underdog! Other days will be the complete opposite. You won’t want to get out of bed, you will feel inferior to your classmates and the world will seem like a terrible, impossible place. This is normal I promise! Ups and downs are part of Uni and they are particularly part of law school.
When the going gets tough I have found the best thing to do is take a break. Stop reading whatevers in front of you and walk away. Go outside and feel sun on your skin. Call a friend and have a chat about last nights episode of the Bachlorette. Even just go into the kitchen and talk to your mum, dad, sibling or housemate. Whatever it is, no matter how small a thing, enjoy it and forget about being stressed for a minute! At times law school may seem like the be all and end all, but i PROMISE you its not! So cut yourself a break and chill out because I bet your doing just fine!
Drugs and alcohol represent unhealthy ways of handling the stress and anxiety of Law School! Learning ways to manage your stress and negative emotions, before they can translate into destructive behavior, is a way of fighting off addiction!
Tips for managing stress:
- Identify warning signs
- Identify your triggers
- Establish routines
- Look after your physical health
- Be aware of your ‘self-talk’
- Spend time with your friends and family
- Practice relaxation techniques – breathing, yoga, meditation
- Find a hobby!
The only way to make substance abuse worse is to ignore the problem!!!! If drugs or alcohol have become a major problem for you or someone close to you, the best thing you can do is to take action and seek out help!
Here are a list of organisations which provide assistance for those struggling with substance abuse:
As young people we think a lot about the now and not so much about the future. Sure we have ideas about the type of career we want, the family we could raise or the chalet we might buy in the Swiss Alps (fingers crossed), but are we thinking about the effects our behavior is having on our bodies?? I have outlined the long term effects of substance abuse below, as according to The Foundation for A Drug-Free World:
Long term effects of Ecstasy:
- Degenerated nerve branches and nerve endings
- Depression, anxiety, memory loss
- Kidney failure
Long term effects of Marijuana:
- Suppression of the immune system
- Study difficulties: reduced ability to learn and retain information
- Apathy, drowsiness, lack of motivation
- Personality and mood changes
- Inability to understand things clearly
Long term effects of Alcohol:
- Unintentional injuries such as car crash, falls, burns, drowning
- Increased on-the-job injuries and loss of productivity
- Increased family problems, broken relationships
- Alcohol poisoning
- High blood pressure, stroke, and other heart-related diseases
- Liver disease
- Nerve damage
- Permanent damage to the brain
- Vitamin B1 deficiency
- Gastritis (inflammation of stomach walls)
Still not sure if substance abuse is a problem among law students? Check out: https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/drugs-are-the-downfall-of-a-brilliant-law-student/2013/01/31/09ad81be-6bc3-11e2-ada0-5ca5fa7ebe79_story.html
While Marc Gersen’s story is an extreme case its not so hard to see how he ended up where he did! The pressure of law school can be intense and without implementing the right coping methods, drugs and alcohol can seem like an easy way of dealing with the pressure and anxiety. I think we can all use this story as a wake up call and make changes in our lives for the better. If you feeling stressed and anxious talking to someone, whether its a friend or family member, and tell them what you are going through. Don’t find comfort at the bottom of a bottle or in a pill, find it in the people who matter to you and the constructive activities that bring you happiness!!
The stigma attached to drug use
- Alcohol is the most widely used drug in Australia.
- 37.3% of Australians aged 14 years and over consume alcohol on a weekly basis.
- Around 1 in 5 (18.2%) Australians over 14 drink at levels that put them at risk of alcohol-related harm over their lifetime.
- Around 1 in 6 (15.6%) people aged 12 years or older had consumed 11 or more standard drinks on a single drinking occasion in the past 12 months.
- Alcohol caused more than twice as many deaths (3,494) than road accidents (1,600) in 2014.
- Marijuana has been used for over 5,000 years.
- No one has ever overdosed on marijuana.
- It is less harmful then alcohol and tobacco
- Only 9% of users become clinically dependent
We’ve all had days where we feel down! Where the world seems as if it is against us and we just can’t catch a break! On days like these we all want an escape, a way to let go and forget about all the problems we have to deal with. It is unsurprising then that there is strong link between depression and substance abuse. People who suffer from anxiety or depression are two to three times more likely to have an alcohol or other substance abuse disorder at some point in their lives than the general population!
Here’s how to tell if you’re just feeling down or if your down mood could be a sign of something more sinister:
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
- Fatigue and decreased energy
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness
- Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
- Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
- Irritability, restlessness
- Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable
- Overeating or appetite loss
- Persistent aches or pains, headaches, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment
- Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
- Thoughts of suicide
The following are causes of substance abuse:
Drug abuse can be genetic. Having parents who abuse drugs put a young person at risk of the same behaviour. It is possible for that young person to grow up without drug abuse issues.
Continually chasing the high that a drug may initially give leads to people being hooked.
Use of drugs by peers influences individuals to try them. Peer pressure can be a tremendous force in getting individuals to try things they normally would not do on their own.
People suffering from anxiety, depression and other mental illness may use drugs to ease suffering.
Boredom in teenagers and young people is a big factor in drug abuse. The drug world seems to be exciting and allows one to escape the mundane.
People think drugs will relieve stress.
Overuse of prescription medication can lead to mixing drugs, overdose and unexpected side effects.
As law students substance abuse is a relevant concern you could face in your professional career! This is what the stats have to say:
18 – 20% of lawyers abuse drugs compared to 8 – 10% of the general population.
People who work more than 50 hours per week are three times more likely to abuse alcohol than those who work less hours. Lawyers average 60 – 80 hours per week.
25% of lawyers who face disciplinary actions abuse drugs or alcohol.
Lawyers are 3.6 times more likely to suffer depression compared to the general population.
Lawyers are often overachievers and have long hours which leads to stress, depression, fatigue land a search for escape and the urge to consume alcohol and drugs.
About 40% of lawyers fear that having treatment for drugs will lead to an impact on their reputation and career.
Some people are able to use recreational or prescription drugs without ever experiencing addiction, but for many others, regular drug use comes with a multitude of negative consequences!! So how can you tell if someone in your life is suffering from addiction?? Here are some of the signs the Mayo Clinic suggests to look out for:
- Frequently missing Uni or work
- Disinterest in everyday activities
- Lack of energy or motivation
- A drop in grades
- Neglected appearance
- Secretiveness about whereabouts or activities
- Changes in their relationships with family and friends
- Asking for money without a reasonable explanation
- Withdrawing themselves from loved ones