Substance Abuse and Dependence

by Seymour Abrahamson

Judicial families, like all loving families, are vulnerable to alcoholism and other drug abuse. The only difference is that we live out our problems in the public fish bowl. Other addictions and depression are among the most serious and obviously of the most sensitive nature. At the executive board meeting of the JFI we were asked to address this problem on our web site. Our approach for the moment will be to provide reference sources, abstracts, and when possible, short articles by specialists in these areas.

It is now widely recognized by governmental agencies and medical organizations that substance abuse and dependence are illnesses resulting from the interaction of genetic, physiological, behavioral, medical, social and environmental interactions. THESE ILLNESSES ARE TREATABLE!

It has been estimated by the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (within the DHHS program) that between 13 -16 million of our population requires treatment for alcohol and drugs each year, with care received by only about 3 million. This Center is available on their web site as www.samhsa.govand the site contains 8 very pertinent programs.

A recent November 2000 publication from the Center entitled "Changing the Conversation: Improving Substance Abuse Treatment" offers guidelines and recommendations. We found especially compelling the preamble to this program.

"The National Treatment Plan Initiative envisions a society in which people with a history of alcohol or drug problems, people in recovery, and people at risk for these problems are valued and treated with dignity and where stigma, attitudes, discrimination, and other barriers to recovery are eliminated. We envision a society in which substance abuse/dependence is recognized as a public health issue, a treatable illness for which individuals deserve treatment. We envision a society in which high-quality services for alcohol and drug problems are widely available and where treatment is recognized as a specialized field of expertise."

In addition to the program discussed above, other major sources of information include the National Institute on Drug Abuse, whose free publications provide short overviews on a series of drug abuse agents, e.g. marijuana, heroin, and cocaine. Their web site is They also provide links to other programs. The National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information is an allied program whose web site is They have brochures designed for parents where alcohol and drug abuse may have become a problem. The titles are "Growing Up Drug Free" (available by calling 1-877-433-7827); "Make a Difference: Talk to Your Children About Alcohol"(www.niaaa.nih.go); "Keeping Youth Drug Free" (by calling 1-800-729-6686) or by web (

To learn of available confidential assistance programs in your own or a nearby state, call the ABA Service Center at 1-800-285-2221 ext. 5359 and ask for the Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs.  Or you may go to this website's "States with Resources for Judicial Families" map and click on the appropriate state to find information for some states. State assistance programs are able to recommend helpful nearby resources to judges and their family members. Some are funded to offer evaluation and referral.