According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, researchers estimate that 20 to 30 percent of the LGBTQ+ community struggles with a substance use disorder — more than double the rate of the general population.
Those in the LGBTQ+ community face unique cultural, emotional and social challenges in regards to substance abuse. They also face difficult situations related to their family life, mental health, and sexual or gender identity.
Some LGBTQ+ individuals turn to drugs and alcohol to cope with these challenges. Drug and alcohol abuse is also prevalent in LGBTQ+ culture, especially in the social scene. This combination of factors places the community at a greater risk for developing a substance use disorder.
Stress at Home
LGBTQ+ youths often face problems at home that can create high levels of stress. One of the toughest challenges is fear of rejection when they come out to family members.
Some conversations with family about identity result in rejection, hate or even violence. In these situations, youths may be forced to run away from home, cut ties with family members or enter foster care.
According to a recent Los Angeles study, 13.6 percent of LGBQ youths and 5.6 percent of transgender youths are in foster care. These rates are significantly higher than those of the general youth population.
Rejection at home is linked to poor health outcomes once LGBTQ+ youths become adults. Researchers from San Francisco State University found that LGBTQ+ youth who face rejection from their family are 3.4 times more likely to use illegal drugs, 8.4 times more likely to report having attempted suicide and 5.9 percent more likely to report having high levels of depression.
Homophobia and Violence
Homophobia, discrimination and, violence toward LGBTQ+ youths are serious problems. Unfortunately, the resulting physical and emotional pain can drive individuals toward drugs or alcohol. According to the 2015 national Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 10 percent of the lesbian, gay and bisexual students surveyed were threatened or injured with a weapon at school. Additionally, 34 percent were bullied on school property, and 28 percent were bullied electronically.
Negative attitudes and discrimination can escalate to Bullying and violence. These experiences often cause lasting trauma, which may lead to the development of mental illnesses such as anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder and, addiction.
Resources for Addiction and Mental Health Challenges
LGBTQ+ people experience greater risks for mental health problems than the general population.
According to a study cited by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, women with same-sex partners experience more mental health disorders than women with opposite-sex partners. Gay men and bisexual people have higher rates of depression and anxiety than the general population.
The link between mental health and substance abuse has long been established. People often use drugs to cope with symptoms of their mental illness, an unhealthy choice that can lead to addiction. Also, drug use can exacerbate symptoms of mental health conditions.
More than 8 million American adults have co-occurring disorders, meaning a dual diagnosis of a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder, according to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Rates of co-occurring disorders are particularly high in the LGBTQ+ community.
Fortunately, support is available for people struggling with substance abuse and related mental health conditions. Psychotherapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy provide information and techniques that can help you cope with family or personal problems in a healthy and productive way.
In addition, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration provides numerous resources for LGBTQ+ people struggling with addiction. The administration’s treatment services locator lists facilities and organizations that offer programs catered to the unique needs of the LGBTQ+ community.
About the Author: Trey Dyer is a writer for DrugRehab.com and a strong supporter of LGBTQ+ rights and equality. When Trey is not working, he can be found fly fishing, bike riding or heading off to his next travel destination.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017, June 21). LGBT Youth. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/lgbthealth/youth.htm
- Human Rights Campaign. (n.d.). LGBTQ Youth in the Foster Care System. Retrieved from http://www.hrc.org/resources/lgbt-youth-in-the-foster-care-system
- Human Rights Campaign. (n.d.). LGBTQ Youth in the Foster Care System. Retrieved from http://assets.hrc.org//files/assets/resources/HRC-YouthFosterCare-IssueBrief-FINAL.pdf?_ga=2.180070179.66019258.1500995093-1368329383.1500995093
- San Francisco State University. (2009, January 1). Family Rejection of Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Adolescents & Negative Health Outcomes. Retrieved from https://familyproject.sfsu.edu/news-announce/family-rejection-lesbian-gay-and-bisexual-adolescents-negative-health-outcomes
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2010, June). Substance Abuse Treatment Programs for Gays and Lesbians. Retrieved from http://archive.samhsa.gov/data/spotlight/Spotlight004GayLesbians.pdf
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2012). Top Health Issues for LGBT Populations Information & Resource Kit. Retrieved from https://store.samhsa.gov/shin/content/SMA12-4684/SMA12-4684.pdf
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2016, September 8). Results from the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Detailed Tables. Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUH-DetTabs-2015/NSDUH-DetTabs-2015/NSDUH-DetTabs-2015.pdf
- Youth.gov. (n.d.). LGBT. Retrieved from http://youth.gov/youth-topics/lgbtq-youth#_ftn
Hardships in the LGBTQ+ Community Increase the Risk for Substance Abuse
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