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Pride Month: Addressing Substance Use in the LGBTQ+ Community

People in the LGBTQ+ community are at an increased risk for various behavioral issues, including substance use disorders (SUDs). Although society is more accepting of these individuals, there’s still work to do. And unfortunately, some people are not lucky enough to have friends and family to support them. Eventually, this can lead them to try other ways of coping. 

In this post, we’re going to cover substance use in the LGBTQ+ population, why these individuals are more likely to have substance use disorders and how to get help for someone you love (including yourself). 

Mental Health and Substance Use Among Sexual Minorities 

People who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning often encounter social stigma, harassment and violence. Some also feel shame or guilt associated with their sexual orientation. To help cope with these feelings, some people turn to drugs or alcohol. They’re able to numb their pain, at least for awhile, and forget about their insecurities. 

Unfortunately, drugs and alcohol are only a temporary bandage – and a dangerous one at that. By using these substances regularly, a person can become dependent on them, putting them at risk for addiction. 

According to the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, people who identify as gay or lesbian are twice as likely to suffer from alcohol addiction. LGBTQ+ adults are also more likely to engage in casual, binge or heavy alcohol use. Furthermore, a 2020 study by the Trevor Project found that 40 percent of LGBTQ+ youth considered suicide in the last year. 

Why Substance Use is Higher Among the LGBTQ+ Community 

To help LGBTQ+ individuals struggling with substance use, we must understand why they turn to drugs or alcohol in the first place. Here are some of the most common reasons why people follow in this path: 

  • Discrimination and social stigma. While there is a growing acceptance for LGBTQ+ individuals, there is still a great deal of discrimination and social stigma in everyday life. This can come from friends, family, neighbors, coworkers or even strangers. 
  • Lack of support. Many sexual minorities stay “in the closet” to avoid discrimination. Living a secret, double life can lead to depression and anxiety. 
  • Co-occurring disorders. Stress, anxiety disorders and depression are all common among LGBTQ+ individuals. Some also suffer from serious health issues like hepatitis, HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. These issues can make it more difficult to access treatment. 
  • Internalized homophobia. Some members of the LGBTQ+ community suffer from internalized homophobia, which happens when they self-identify with the stigmas surrounding sexual minorities. 

Specialized Substance Use Treatment for the LGBTQ+ Population 

Many sexual minorities facing substance use problems are afraid to access help from a traditional treatment facility. They worry that they won’t receive the support and understanding they need and may even face inappropriate comments from peers and counselors. Even if they do agree to treatment, many LGBTQ+ individuals don’t fully let down their guards. 

Fortunately, there are more specialized treatment centers that are trained to treat sexual minorities with substance use problems. If you or a loved one identifies as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or questioning, we highly recommend seeking an addiction treatment center that has experience working with this population. 

Awakenings Treatment Center is a holistic treatment center in Agoura Hills CA. We offer a specific track focused on the unique needs of LGBTQ+ individuals. We are here to support you or a loved one regardless of how you identify in terms of sexual orientation. Our goal is to address your challenges (coming out, bullying, trauma, grief, workplace issues, etc.) and develop alternative ways to cope with stress and anxiety. 

There is absolutely no judgement here. We are friends, we are family and we are here to help. Contact Awakenings Treatment Center today to learn more about our LGBTQ+ addiction treatment center.