LBGTQ Addiction: Understanding Drug and Alcohol Abuse

LBGTQ Addiction: Understanding Substance Abuse in Marginalized Communities

Did you know that there is one group that experiences higher rates of substance abuse than any other? That is the LGBTQ+ community.

LGBTQ+ individuals are at a greater risk for addiction than their heterosexual or cisgender peers. Studies have shown that 44% of LGBTQ+ adults have used drugs in their lifetime compared to just 17% of straight men. That is a huge difference. Below we will discuss some of the reasons for this and what we can do to change it.

What Is Substance Abuse?

Substance abuse is defined as a dependency or overreliance on the use of drugs or alcohol. This dependency will have a tangible, negative impact on the individual’s life. Highly addictive substances include the likes of heroin, cocaine, and prescription painkillers. Recreational drugs such as marijuana and ecstasy can also create dependency.

Substance abuse is not limited to illegal drugs; addiction can also happen with over-the-counter medications such as sleeping pills and cough syrup.

Substance abuse is often a symptom of an underlying mental health issue such as depression or anxiety. If you’re struggling with substance abuse, it is important to seek help from a qualified professional who can help you manage your symptoms effectively so that they don’t interfere with your daily life any more than they already do.

The History of Substance Abuse

Substance abuse is not a recent phenomenon. According to the National Institute on Drugs Abuse, drug use has been documented since ancient times. However, it wasn’t until the 20th century that we began to see the widespread abuse of drugs like cocaine and heroin.

Today, more than 35 million people worldwide suffer from drug addiction. This number includes those affected by substance abuse disorders involving alcohol, opioids, or cocaine.

A History of Substance Abuse and the LGBTQ+ Community

Unfortunately, the LGBTQ+ community has a long history of substance abuse. It has been shown that members of this community have a higher likelihood of addiction, commonly starting at an earlier age than others. This results from the unique and challenging experiences people in this community commonly encounter.

LGBTQ+ individuals are often kicked out of their homes or shunned from parts of society. Without the support of a like-minded community, many people are left isolated and vulnerable. The use of illicit substances is often used as a coping mechanism.

Why Do People Abuse Substances?

It is hard to give a simple answer to one of the most complicated questions. It is not simply peer pressure or family dynamics that cause an individual to become addicted. There are many contributing factors as unique as those addicted themselves.

One commonality among those who struggle with addiction is low self-esteem or mental health issues. It is due to these complex and painful feelings that many people try to self-medicate. Additionally, there is research saying a genetic predisposition may be to blame. Research shows that if you have an addicted parent, it is more likely to happen to you.

The LGBTQ+ Community and Addiction

As we addressed above, the LGBTQ+ community has significantly higher rates of drug abuse. The community shares the stressors that come from living in an intolerant society. Still, the diverse nature of the LGBTQ+ community makes it difficult to speak to specific reasons why they are more likely to be addicted.

What can be said is that gay men, for example, are three times more likely to drink excessively than their heterosexual counterparts. Excessive drinking can easily lead to dependency, according to research by the Stanford University School of Medicine and VA Palo Alto Heath Care System researchers.

A commonly shared experience in the LGBTQ+ community is coming out. For the members who feel safe enough to make that brave choice, it can be traumatic. Others may be rejected by their families and kicked out of their homes. Many don’t get the option at all because it would endanger their lives. Regardless of which end of the spectrum the experience may or may not happen, community members may use drugs or alcohol to cope.

According to another study by Stanford University School of Medicine and VA Palo Alto Health Care System researchers, “26% of gay men said they had used drugs to escape their daily lives compared with only 13% of straight men who reported doing so.”

LGBTQ+ People Have Unique Struggles That Can Lead To Addiction

If you’re a member of the LGBTQ+ community, you’ve likely experienced some discrimination. Whether it is a lack of acceptance from family or friends or physical violence and abuse, the challenges of being a part of this community can be overwhelming.

It’s important to remember that addiction is not a choice; it’s a disease that can be managed with the proper treatment and support. LGBTQ+ individuals are more likely to abuse drugs or alcohol. The community experiences stressors in their daily lives that cis-gendered and heterosexual people do not. Due to the stress, LGBTQ+ individuals may turn to substances as an escape from the challenges they face in their daily lives.
Studies show that LGBTQ+ individuals are also prone to developing mental health problems. These mental health struggles can include depression and anxiety due to discrimination.

Why is the LGBTQ+ Community More Likely to Abuse Drugs and Alcohol?

Drug and alcohol abuse is rampant in the LGBTQ+ community. There are myriad reasons for this, but a primary reason is a desire for escapism. This community deals with discrimination, stigma, and a lack of support, creating fertile ground for substance abuse and long-term addiction.

Due to discrimination and other factors, LGBTQ+ individuals are more likely to experience mental health issues like depression and anxiety. Due to the stigma associated with being a member of this community and the stigma that comes with mental health struggles, many don’t seek help until it’s too late.

Whether in person or online, the LGBTQ+ community lacks the proper resources to support their addiction and mental health concerns. Since the pandemic, there has been an uptick in online therapy options available to everyone, but that only scratches the surface of what the community needs.

Nothing is better to help heal a community than developing a support group of like-minded individuals who understand their particular problems. When a shared experience is the foundation of a support or group therapy session, it is easier to open up and heal.

Given how close-knit sectors of the LGBTQ+ community are (think drag queen cabarets or leather bars), you can imagine how drug use can spread quickly in these tight-knit communities when only a few members participate initially. Not to forget that until recently, there were few places for this community to gather safely, and queer bars were the first place they could truly relax. Having a safe space at a bar can encourage those who may not have otherwise drank to fit into their surroundings.

How To Get Help if You Struggle With Addiction

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, it is essential to seek treatment from professionals. Sunshine Care Centers can connect you to crucial resources and tools for long-term success. Support groups can offer incredible benefits as well. In those groups, you will find others facing similar challenges as you, which is a significant asset to your recovery journey.

If LGBTQ+-friendly therapists are unavailable in your area or cost too much, consider seeking out resources online. At Sunshine Care Centers, a host of different therapies are available to suit your interests, including music therapy.

An affordable option is the free online community Reddit, which offers an array of support groups. These groups aim to help individuals address mental health issues such as substance use disorder and other concerns.

If possible, the best option is to find a therapist who is either LGBTQ+ affirmative or is also a part of the community. Having a professional on your side will always give you the most comprehensive support.

Alcoholism Screening Tool for Adolescents (ASTAs)

The ASTAs is a screening tool used by professionals working with teens aged 12-17 years old who have a parent that has an alcohol problem or who are suspected of having a problem themselves. The ASTAs is considered an effective tool for identifying and treating substance use disorders. It is an accurate system to identify adolescents who need intervention from specialists. The earlier a substance abuse problem is addressed, the more likely long-term success can be had while avoiding some of the harmful pitfalls of addiction on the body, mind, finances, and relationships.

The Future is Bright

Although there is still a long way to go, the world is improving. Many countries, including developing nations, are now legalizing gay marriage and gay adoption.

Gay pride marches are the norm and are an accepted and celebrated part of most big cities. With these developments, it is clear that the stigma around the LGBTQ+ community is easing, which will help lessen the disproportionate amount of addiction that is in the LGBTQ+ community in time.

We are Here to Support our LGBTQ+ Community

When it comes to addiction, like gender and sexuality, there is no room for shame or stigma. As a society, it is our duty to be open and supportive of anyone who asks for help. That includes our LGBTQ+ community.

We hope that this article has helped you understand the unique issues facing the LGBTQ+ community when it comes to addiction. If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, don’t hesitate to contact Sunshine Care Centers today. We are here to help.

LGBTQ+ Rehab at Sunshine Care Centers

At Sunshine Care Centers, we work hard to provide a clean and secure environment for everyone to express themselves during treatment. We understand that addiction is experienced differently by everyone, and we are dedicated to safely guiding patients through detox and establishing a treatment plan catered to their needs. Don’t wait to get the help you need to reach your recovery goals.

Speak to a specialist at Sunshine Care Centers by calling 883-597-CARE or message us to answer all your questions today! 

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