As much as 30% of the LGBTQ demographic abuse substances, compared to 9% in the heterosexual population.
In most cases, drugs and alcohol are a way for a person to deal with problems in their lives. The fact is – many people within the LGBTQ have to deal with way more problems than the average person. They for one can experience higher levels of stress, social stigmas, and discrimination. Therefore, this leads to much higher substance abuse rates compared to heterosexual people.
The Alarming Statistics Of LGBTQ Substance Abuse
As previously mentioned – substance abuse is a huge problem within the LGBTQ community and is much more common than in any other demographic. In fact, it is thought that around 20-30 percent of the LGBTQ demographic abuse substances, in comparison to about 9 percent that of the regular demographic.
Here are some more addiction statistics regarding the LGBTQ:
- People within the LGBTQ are 200% more likely to use tobacco than heterosexual and non-transgender people.
- 25 percent of people identified as LGBTQ abuse alcohol, in comparison to about 5-10 percent of the regular demographic.
- Men that have intercourse with men are over 3.5 times more likely to use marijuana
- These same men are also 12.2 times more likely to use amphetamines than men who do not have intercourse with men.
- They are also 9.5 times more likely to use heroin.
From the statistics shown, we can come to grasp that there is an obvious problem within the LGBTQ. From alcohol to drugs the issue is there, but what are we doing about it? If a person needs help for addiction, they usually go to rehab. However, for people within the LGBT, it can be a bit more difficult. Sometimes they’re denied treatment, and sometimes they might feel like an outcast and relapse. Fortunately, there are specific rehabs designed for LGBTQ people.
Why Are LGBTQ People More Likely To Become Addicted To Drugs And Alcohol?
Stress triggers that lead to addiction in LGBTQ people may include any or more of the following:
- Fear of persecution which leads to living a stressful double life in order to conform
- Isolation that arises from public ridicule and rejection
- Emotional trauma caused by abuse by other people especially family members
- Internalized homophobia, a deep self-loathing, feelings of shame and of being damaged
- Religious intolerance and inability to join a particular faith
- Social discrimination that prevents them equal access to healthcare and job opportunities
- Frustration from an inability to pursue a love interest
- Feelings of loneliness and lack of intimacy or someone to confide in
A fear of persecution leads to isolation, hiding who you are from all around you is a huge reason for someone to have a substance abuse problem.
Rejection from regular society is a big issue – not everyone is on their side, and discrimination can lead to a lack of chances with job opportunities. Taking the jump if the person on the other side of the table is for or against you can put much pressure on someone, leading again to substance abuse.
It is not always the public that contributes to substance abuse with someone within the LGBTQ community. Self-worth is also a big factor, always judging yourself, self-loathing and even shame of who you are can once again lead to abusing a substance.
Studies have been conducted in this area and their findings are:
- LGBT youth is up to 300% more likely to succumb to drug addiction
- A quarter of LGBT people abuse alcohol whereas the fraction is less than a tenth for the general populace
- A larger percentage of LGBTQ people have experimented with harmful drugs: 63% have experimented with Ecstasy, 63% have experimented with marijuana, 48% have experimented with amyl nitrate and 45% smoke an average of more than 10 cigarettes daily.
Other Problems Caused By Drugs And Alcohol Addiction In The LGBTQ Community
Addiction is not only a problem in and of itself. It is also a cause or escalator of other psychological or health problems. The mental processes of people suffering from addiction are often clouded which leads them to make bad choices. It is also very probable that an addict will mostly interact with fellow addicts making it even more difficult to overcome the addiction as they are constantly surrounded by enablers. Their decision making is usually poor, especially while under the influence. Trying to cope with life’s issues by drug or alcohol use will likely cause even more life issues, and so the self-perpetuating vicious cycle goes on and on.
People who are addicts are often highly susceptible to:
- Eating disorders
- Suicidal tendencies
- Health risks such as liver cirrhosis or lung cancer
- HIV contracted by sharing needles
- Sexual dysfunction
Having a problem with an addiction usually leads to having even more problems. Depression is a big issue in the LGBTQ and can lead to an eating disorder. LGBT men are actually 3 times more likely to have an eating disorder. Not only that, an addiction to certain drugs could even lead to HIV when sharing needles or other drug use equipment.
Helping LGBTQ People Suffering From Addiction
Recognizing issues associated with addiction is quite important, for gay or transgender people getting help is a little different than a regular person suffering from addiction. For one, LGBT individuals can find help in specifically designed rehab centers just for them. There are treatment centers catered to the unique needs of lesbian women, bisexuals and even LGBTQ youth. Overall these individualized treatment options make a big difference in the ability for them to recover from an addiction.
Some issues treated at LGBTQ treatment centers are:
- Managing discrimination from others
- Dealing with depression, anxiety, and guilt that stem from sexual orientation or gender identity
- Handling peer pressure
- Guidelines for accepting their identity and coming out
The Advantage Of Specialized LGBTQ Rehab Centers
As more and more help centers spring up with more understanding of the specific needs of LGBTQ. Going to such rehabilitation centers will make the patient feel more at home and assist in the recovery process. Being around other people with the same struggles in itself is a great therapy which can tremendously help the patient’s feeling of self-worth and self-esteem. These people need to be cared for in a warm and welcoming environment where they do not feel the alienation that drove them into addiction in the first place. Rehabilitation in these types of places takes into account other disorders, whether they are innate or they have been developed over the years.
EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on AddictionResource.com.