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  • Attorney Support Groups:

    5:30 pm, 1st Monday of every month, and 7:30 am every 3rd Monday at:
    First United Methodist Church in Albuquerque Call 797-6003 for details


    5:30 p.m., 2nd Monday of every month at: UNM School of Law, 1117 Stanford NE, Room 1119

    Program Video


New Mexico Lawyers and Judges Assistance Program


You don’t have to manage alone.  Help and Support are only a phone call away.
Confidential Assistance - 24 Hours Every Day
Judges: Call 888-502-1289
Lawyers & law students: Call 505-228-1948 or 800-860-4914

Addiction – A Brain Disease that Affects Millions


In 1956, the American Medical Association determined that alcoholism was a disease based on its characteristics described below:

  1. Primary. Alcoholism is a primary disease, not a secondary symptom of an underlying psychological or medical condition.
  2. Progressive. Alcoholism has a predictable course of deterioration with a corresponding, specific group of symptoms.
  3. Chronic. Similar to diseases such as diabetes and epilepsy, alcoholism cannot be cured, but its’ symptoms can be controlled with proper treatment.
  4. Fatal. Unless abstinence is maintained, most individuals with this disease will succumb to an alcohol-caused illness or injury.

The American Society of Addiction Medicine has since been expanded the definition to include all chemical addictions and reflect the most current research:

“Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social, and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors.

Addiction is characterized by inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioral control, craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response. Like other chronic diseases, addiction often involves cycles of relapse and remission. Without treatment or engagement in recovery activities, addiction is progressive and can result in disability or premature death.”


How Does the Brain Become Diseased?


A person takes a drug of abuse (ex. alcohol, cocaine, methamphetamine), activating the brain circuits essential to survival such as: eating, bonding, and sex. This releases the brain’s endogenous opioids, which activate its pleasure centers and cause a rise in Dopamine, a reward neurotransmitter. The brain remembers this pleasure and wants to repeat it.




As dopamine surges, so do the neurotransmitters: Glutamate (main excitatory) and GABA (main inhibitory). GABA overpowers the Glutamate, causing an imbalance the brain struggles to overcome by releasing more receptors for Glutamate. This corrects the imbalance, but makes more alcohol necessary to reach the same level of intoxication.


Dysregulation results in dysphoria, cravings, more drug seeking behaviors and other attempts to soothe the disturbed limbic system. Eventually the need to obtain and take drugs becomes more important than any other needs, including food and sex. 


Abstinence improves brain function, but the brain remains chemically changed and susceptible to anything that triggers the limbic system. This effect can last from days to months.



Brain Scan  

Illustrations provided by Dr. Kenneth Thompson, Medical Director of Caron Treatment Center


Warning Signs of Addiction in Attorneys


Attendance Problems:

• Late

• Ill with vague complaints
• Leaving early

• Frequent absences (especially Mondays)
• Taking “long lunches”

• Improbable excuses for absences
• Not returning to work after lunch

• Frequent restroom breaks
• Missed appointments
• Last minute cancellations

Relationship Problems:

• Client complaints

• Problems with supervisors
• Disagreements/problems working with colleagues

• Avoiding others
• Irritable, impatient

• Angry outbursts
• Hostile attitude

• Overreaction to criticism
• Inconsistencies/discrepancies in describing events
• Unpredictable, rapid mood swings

Performance Problems:

• Missed deadlines

• Decreased efficiency
• Inadequate follow-through

• Lack of attention
• Poor judgment

• Difficulty concentrating
• Memory lapses especially with details or directions
• General difficulty with recall

Issues Unique to the Legal Profession:

• Missing checks to be deposited

• Unexplained debit card withdrawals
• Incomplete or irregular records

• “Borrowing” from trust
• Using trust to pay personal and/or office expenses

• Incomplete accounting for receipts and disbursements
• Failure to timely disburse

• Failure to renew law license
• Unresponsive to Discipline

• Noncompliance with CLE
• Lapsed insurance policies

• Failure to file and pay taxes




Confidential Screening for Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drugs

Is Someone You Love a High-Functioning Alcoholic? Are you concerned someone you love might have a drinking problem even though they manage to show up at work every day and maintain close relationships?

Former TV Anchor Laurie Dhue Shares Her Stuggle With Alcoholism (article and video)

Attend online 12- Step meetings and book clubs; read blogs, write in your journal, and chat with over 20,000 members of this worldwide recovery community. (This is intended as an adjunct and not a replacement for in-person participation in 12-step groups).

Recovery Speakers