LGBTQ+ People Experience Higher Rates Of Substance Abuse

Addiction treatment in the LGBTQ+ community is vital as LGBTQ+ people abuse substances at alarmingly high rates when compared to the general population. While only 9% of the general population abuses substances, 20-30% of LGBTQ+ people do. That’s 2-3 times as much.

Unfortunately, the low amount of LGBTQ+ specific treatment facilities is a large contributing factor to why many LGBTQ+ people don’t seek the treatment that they need. Thankfully, more and more facilities are hiring LGBTQ+ people and incorporating specialized treatment. However, this lack of competent healthcare options isn’t anything new in the community. Healthcare discrimination has been around for a long time, and often prevents people from getting the help they need, whether it’s for substance abuse or other health issues.

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How Discrimination And Social Stigma Affect Addiction Treatment In The LGBTQ+ Community

Not only does healthcare discrimination play a large factor in preventing people from getting treatment, but other types of discrimination do as well. Housing and employment discrimination are often on the top of that list. When LGBTQ+ people can’t find affordable housing, are homeless, or have low income because they’ve been fired because of their sexuality or gender, they may turn to drugs or alcohol. On top of that, they may not be able to afford the payments required for healthcare or addiction treatment.

Discrimination and social stigma prevent people from living a sustainable life. Studies repeatedly show instability as a leading cause of addiction. Losing one’s job frequently or never being able to afford healthcare puts a lot of stress on a person, potentially resulting in addiction and an inability to receive treatment.

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Gay Bars Normalize Alcohol And Drug Culture

Another reason that LGBTQ+ people often don’t get the treatment that they require is because they don’t believe that they have a problem. Gay bars are common in the community and are often the only LGBTQ+ safe spaces in some communities. This social stigma and pressure to drink and engage in substance abuse is commonplace, and therefore not seen as much of an issue.

Why Is Specialized Treatment So Important?

Minority groups go through something called “minority stress.” Minority stress is defined as the negative effects associated with being a part of a marginalized social group. People of minority groups deal with all kinds of stressors unique to their group. Because of this, it may be hard for people of minority groups to relate to people outside of their group on specific issues. This is especially true with LGBTQ+ people.

Treatment is never one size fits all, and what works for some won’t work for others. Being a part of a minority group affects a large part of a person’s life, especially when it comes to addiction. Having a treatment facility or sponsor that understands the specific hardships they are going through can be instrumental to their success.

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Types Of Treatment Options In The LGBTQ+ Community

People in the LGBTQ+ community will find the most success when they seek treatment that is specific to their situation, but what are the quality of the available options? In a study done in 2016, it was found that 17.6% of substance abuse facilities and 12.6% of mental health facilities reported LGBT-specific programs. These numbers may have increased between then and now, but in general, the percentage of facilities that offer specific addiction treatment in the LGBTQ+ community are low.

However, it’s important to explore all options in order to make an informed decision about where to attend rehab.

Inpatient And Outpatient Treatment Facilities

The type of treatment a person requires depends on the severity of their addiction. Inpatient treatment should be considered for people who have severe addictions and would benefit from medically detoxing. Outpatient treatment is a viable option for those who have already completed inpatient treatment or people who have minor addictions.

There are a variety of different LGBTQ+ specific facilities and programs within this category. An addict may stay in a treatment facility for a week or a few months, so choosing one that aligns with their needs is important.

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Sober Living Communities

A sober living community is a continuing care option for those who need more accountability after leaving inpatient or outpatient treatment. Because sober living communities are residential, with people living in them for long periods of time, one should explore all the options and determine which offers the treatment and support they desire.

Having minority stress in common with those in shared living spaces may help residents open up more and find greater results during their recovery.

Group Therapy

After receiving treatment or living in a sober living community, attending group therapy is an essential step in the recovery process. While groups like Alcoholics Anonymous have been shown to assist with long-term recovery, LGBTQ+ specific groups may make people feel safer and at home.

On top of that, having a sponsor who is in the LGBTQ+ community can also be incredibly helpful for successful recovery.

Finding Addiction Treatment In The LGBTQ+ Community

If you’re a part of the LGBTQ+ community, you may feel accustomed to feeling like an outcast. You may feel unable to open up to people or unable to connect with those around you. Receiving treatment that is specialized to you and other members of your community may help negate these issues.

To find treatment, contact a treatment provider today.

Last Edited:


Megan Prevost

Photo of Megan Prevost
  • Megan Prevost earned a B.F.A. in Creative Writing for Entertainment from Full Sail University. Her work has appeared in many different publications, and she’s held columns and guest spots on LGBTQ+ and entertainment websites. Previously, she’s written copy and content for both law firms and healthcare clinics. She is proud to be able to use her writing ability to help the addiction and mental health communities.

  • More from Megan Prevost

Reviewed by Certified Addiction Professional:

David Hampton

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  • A survivor of addiction himself, David Hampton is a Certified Professional Recovery Coach (CPRC) and a member of the National Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors (NAADAC).

  • More from David Hampton


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