Gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and queer individuals are a few of the many identities present under the LGBTQ+ umbrella. Due to the homophobia and discrimination that continues to exist against LGBTQ+ individuals in today’s society, many LGBTQ+ folks find themselves struggling with drugs and alcohol addiction at some point in their lifetime.
This makes LGBTQ+ addiction treatment programs essential for providing safe and affirming care to this marginalized population.
The Correlation Between LGBTQ+ Identities and Addiction
Substance use disorder is a dangerous mental health condition in which someone becomes physically and or psychologically dependent on a substance such as alcohol or drugs. There is no question that LGBTQ+ adults are at a greater risk of developing an addiction than cis-gendered and heterosexual. This group has been found to use and abuse drugs at much higher rates than the general population, which, in turn, makes them more likely to develop an addiction to them.
Statistics reveal that 37.6% of sexual minority adults used marijuana instead of 16.2% of the general adult population, while 9% used opioids compared to 3.8% of the general population.1 Furthermore, transgender students were 2.5 times more likely to use methamphetamine and cocaine than cisgender students.2
Why Are LGBTQ+ Addiction Rates Higher Than The General Population?
Many reasons may explain why the LGBTQ+ community turns to drugs and alcohol more frequently than the general population. Here are a few of the factors in the correlation between LGBTQ+ identities and addiction rates:
The Nation Institute on Drug Abuse reports that of the 20.3 million adults living with substance use disorder, 37.9% are also struggling with a co-occurring mental illness.3 This correlation between addiction and mental health conditions occurs for a variety of reasons. Those with mental health conditions may use drugs and alcohol to cope with their adverse symptoms, while those with addiction may develop a mental illness from repeated substance use.
Adults who identify as LGBTQ+ have a two times higher rate of mental health conditions than heterosexual individuals.4 Furthermore, transgender individuals are four times more likely to struggle with a mental health condition than cis-gendered people.4 In the LGBTQ+ community, the prevalence of mental illness is more common, making their risk for addiction heightened.
Lack Of Acceptance From Family and Communities
Feeling supported by the people that matter most in your life is essential for strong mental health and self-esteem. Unfortunately, this is not always the case for LGBTQ+ youth and adults who reside in less accepting and open communities. Specifically, the process of coming out to friends, family, and other loved ones who aren’t accepting of an LGBTQ+ member’s life can play a huge role in their susceptibility to drug and alcohol addiction.
This was revealed in one study on LGBTQ+ youth. The study found that those who received a rejecting reaction to their sexual identity were associated with higher rates of current and subsequent alcohol, cigarette, and marijuana use.5 Similarly, studies found that rates of substance use disorders were four times greater for LGBTQ+ adults who were discriminated against than those who weren’t.6
Increased Rates of Homelessness For LGBTQ+ Youth
Some LGBTQ+ youth are disowned and kicked out by their families when they find out about their sexuality or gender identity, leading to a high number of LGBTQ+ youth experiencing homelessness.
In fact, up to 40% of youth experiencing homelessness identify as members of the LGBTQ+ community.7 Since 38% of homeless people were dependent on alcohol and 26% used other drugs, this places LGBTQ+ youth at a potentially higher risk of developing an addiction.8
How To Find Affirming Help For LGBTQ+ Individuals Struggling With Addiction
Because of the discrimination that still exists in many places, LGBTQ+ individuals must feel safe and secure in recovery. That’s why finding an inclusive and affirming rehab center is vital for their treatment and recovery. The best situation is attending a drug and alcohol rehab center offering a special LGBTQ+ treatment program.
This is particularly important for the individual’s long-term recovery. For example, research shows that gay and bisexual men had better outcomes in LGBTQ+ treatment programs versus generic programs.
Inclusive Drug and Rehab Services At Clear Life Recovery
Clear Life Recovery supports all members of the LGBTQ+ community throughout their journey towards recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. Our specialized LGBTQ addiction program offers a wide range of individual, group, and holistic therapies to tackle addiction and subsequent mental health concerns head-on.
If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, take the first step to heal by calling our compassionate team or contacting us online.