The LGBTQ Community And Addiction

Members of the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer) community face a number of challenges that have contributed to a high rate of addiction within the community.

An estimated 20 to 30% of the LGBTQ community abuses substances, compared to about 9% the population as a whole.

LGBTQ-specific treatment centers are sensitive to the needs of the LGBTQ community and address any underlying elements that may have caused an addiction. This is instrumental to the recovery process. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), addiction treatment programs that offer specialized groups for the LGBTQ community show better outcomes for those clients compared to non-specialized programs. Current research suggests that treatment should address unique factors in these patients’ lives, such as homophobia/transphobia, family problems, violence, and social isolation.

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Challenges The LGBTQ Community Faces

The LGBTQ community suffers from higher rates of substance abuse than the population as a whole. This is due in part to a number of societally imposed obstacles that they face, often on a daily basis, that those who identify as heterosexual typically don’t.

A few of these challenges include:

  • Discrimination or stigmatization based on sexual orientation
  • Hate crimes, emotional abuse, threats, public humiliation, or ridicule
  • Rejection or shame from family or friends after coming out
  • Loss of employment or not receiving promotions

Oftentimes, LGBTQ individuals will turn to drugs or alcohol as a way to self-medicate. Substances can help temporarily numb uncomfortable feelings such as depression, anxiety, anger, or fear. Although substance abuse may appear to be beneficial initially, there are many long-term and negative consequences from hiding one’s feelings.

Transgender individuals are especially vulnerable to turning to addictive substances to deal with feelings of anxiety or loneliness due to negative stigma and discrimination. In fact, one study found that transgender students are 2.5 times more likely to use Cocaine or Meth; they are also twice as likely to abuse prescription medications (such as prescription Opioids or Benzodiazepines).

Common Co-Occurring Disorders In The LGBTQ Community

One thing that may provide internal conflict for members of the LGBTQ community is that, oftentimes, they are forced to live a “closeted” life. This is where they hide their sexuality from others in fear of rejection and lead a double life in regards to acting on their sexual orientation. Keeping one’s sexuality a secret is a big psychological toll that may lead to the development of mental health disorders and significant emotional distress.

Common psychological or emotional disorders present in the LGBTQ community include:

  • Major depression
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • High levels of stress
  • Suicide attempts or self-harming tendencies

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In addition to the societal challenges that they face, an LGBTQ individual may also be experiencing physical or health issues related to their sexuality. These can also contribute to an addiction and may include:

  • Compulsive sexual behavior
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Sex or HIV-related anxiety
  • Sexual abuse or assault

Many individuals who identify as LGBTQ have a co-occurring mental or sexual disorder that either led to a substance abuse problem or is perpetuating this abuse. When considering which treatment option is best for an LGBTQ individual, there should be a focus on addressing any co-occurring disorders to allow for the highest chance of sustained sobriety while in recovery.

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Drugs Of Choice Within The LGBTQ Community

While many substances can be addictive, there are five that are abused most frequently within the LGBTQ community.

  • Tobacco

    Gay and transgender individuals use tobacco up to 200% more than those who identify as heterosexual.

  • Alcohol

    Between 20 and 25% of the LGBTQ community have moderate to severe alcohol dependency.

  • Marijuana

    Gay men are 3.5 times more likely to use Marijuana than straight males.

  • Amphetamines

    Members of the LGBTQ community are 12.2 times more likely to use Amphetamines.

  • Heroin

    LGBTQ individuals are 9.5 times more likely to use Heroin than heterosexual individuals.

Treatment Centers For The LGBTQ Community

One of the reasons that LGBTQ individuals may be hesitant to get help is the lack of resources available to them that address their individual needs, especially in certain areas of the US.

There are various treatment programs, however, that focus on the isolation that members of the LGBTQ community often experience, as well as the lasting effects of conducting a “closeted” life or being the victim of discrimination.

LGBTQ-specific rehab centers help pinpoint any co-occurring mental health disorders, which helps with lasting healing and recovery. Without addressing the underlying reason to use or any conditions that may be contributing to an addiction, there is a far greater chance for relapse.

Explore These Featured Treatment Centers

Get The Help You Need

The LGBTQ community’s rate of addiction is concerning, as are the various challenges and obstacles these individuals face on a daily basis that can contribute to a substance abuse problem.

By entering a rehab center that specializes in LGBTQ addiction and care, you will feel like part of the majority rather than the minority and be surrounded by individuals that can provide support and encouragement.

If you or someone you love is struggling with an addiction and want to explore treatment options, contact a treatment provider for help.

Published:

Author

Jeffrey Juergens

Photo of Jeffrey Juergens
  • Jeffrey Juergens earned his Bachelor’s and Juris Doctor from the University of Florida. Jeffrey’s desire to help others led him to focus on economic and social development and policy making. After graduation, he decided to pursue his passion of writing and editing. Jeffrey’s mission is to educate and inform the public on addiction issues and help those in need of treatment find the best option for them.

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Reviewed by Certified Addiction Professional:

Theresa Parisi

Photo of Theresa Parisi
  • Theresa Parisi received her bachelor’s degree in Addiction Science and Psychology from Minnesota State University in Mankato, Minnesota in 2010. She is currently working towards her master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling at Palm Beach Atlantic University in West Palm Beach, Florida. She is a Certified Addiction Professional (CAP), Certified Behavioral Health Case Manager (CBHCM), and International Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (ICADC) by the Florida Certification Board. Theresa is passionate about recovery having gone through addiction herself.

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Sources

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Recovery Unplugged – Harrison House of Northern Virginia

Annandale , VA

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Cove Forge Behavioral Health Center

Williamsburg , PA

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Bowling Green Brandywine

Kennett Square , PA

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MeadowWood Behavioral Health

New Castle , DE

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Banyan Treatment Centers – Delaware

Milford , DE

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Coatesville Comprehensive Treatment Center

Coatesville , PA

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Harmony Healing Center

Cherry Hill , NJ

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White Deer Run

Allenwood , PA

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Lynchburg Comprehensive Treatment Center

Lynchburg , VA

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Boca Recovery Center – New Jersey

Galloway , NJ

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Huntington Creek Recovery Center

Shickshinny , PA

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Clearbrook Treatment Centers

Laurel , PA

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Princeton Detox & Recovery Center

Monmouth Junction , NJ

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Pocono Mountain Recovery Center

Henryville , PA

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Guardian IOP – New Brunswick

New Brunswick , NJ

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SOBA New Jersey

New Brunswick , NJ

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