Title

Stress and substance abuse among law students

Date of Completion

January 2000

Keywords

Education, Educational Psychology|Psychology, Clinical|Education, Higher

Degree

Ph.D.

Abstract

Law students experience unusually high levels of stress, anxiety, and depression as a function of the nature of legal training (Iijima, 1998; Beck & Burns, 1979; Diamond, 1977; Heins, Fahey, & Leiden, 1984; Heins, Fahey, & Henderson, 1983; Silver, 1968). The literature reports that a large number of law students in the USA are very frequent users of alcohol and other illicit drugs (American Association of Law Schools, 1994). There have been very few studies in the last 30 years examining psychological stress and substance use among students attending law schools (Heins et al., 1984; AALS, 1994). This study fills a gap in research regarding stress and substance abuse among law students. The study sought to explain the extent and manner that depression, anxiety and psychiatric distress classification could be explained by the following demographic variables: Gender, ethnicity, age, marital status, year in law school, grade point average, full or part-time attendance, scholarship status, and employment status. Furthermore, the study sought to explain the relationship of depression, anxiety, and psychiatric distress with the following indicators of substance use: frequency of use, age of first use and family history of use. ^ Findings revealed that the majority of the law students were experiencing mild depression, mild anxiety and above average distress. However, these rates were within normal range. There were significant mean differences between nudes and females among the Beck Depression Inventory II scores, between frequency of substance use and Beck Anxiety Inventory scores and age of first substance use and the Brief Symptom Inventory, GSI scores. The majority of law students who reported having used alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, sedatives and hallucinogens indicated that their use of these substances began before their entry into law school. The data showed that a large number of law students were frequent current users of alcohol and other illicit drugs. There was a positive relationship between being a female law student and a higher Beck Depression Inventory II score, having a low grade point average and a higher Beck Depression Inventory II score, working and student status and a higher Beck Depression Inventory II Score, being a female law student and a higher Beck Anxiety Inventory score, a low grade point average and a higher Beck Anxiety Inventory score and a low grade point average and a higher score on the Brief Symptom Inventory, GSI score. These scores were within the normal range. ^