Why LGBTQIA Communities Are More at Risk for Substance Use Disorders

Content medically reviewed by Vicky Magobet, PMHNP-BC, on May 12, 2020.

Now more than ever, the LGBTQIA communities have found their voice and are radically impacting the world for change. However, for a young person struggling with sexual identity, the fear of not fitting into a society that has historically rejected them has led many to turn to drugs and alcohol for relief.

Understanding the unique factors impacting the LGBTQIA communities is the first step to getting these individuals the help they need. If you or someone you know is gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex or asexual, there is hope and healing from a life of drug or alcohol abuse.

Startling Statistics Among the LGBTQIA Communities

While millions of Americans struggle with drug and alcohol addiction, those who identify as gay or lesbian are twice as likely to have a severe alcohol abuse disorder, and bi-sexual individuals are three times more at risk of developing an addiction. Transgender young people are nearly two and half times more likely to seek out drugs like cocaine and methamphetamines. Those who are unsure of their sexual identity are five times more likely to have an addiction over those who are heterosexual.

These alarming and heartbreaking statistics tell a story. Drugs and alcohol have been used to escape and mask feelings of rejection and fear. To provide treatment, an addiction rehab center must understand the unique needs of this population.

Factors That Place LGBTQIA Individuals at Risk for Substance Abuse

While each person who goes to rehab has their own story, there are some common internal and external factors LGBTQIA individuals share that likely influence why they seek out drugs or alcohol:

  • Trauma: Physical, mental and verbal abuse are all familiar stories among sexual minorities.
  • Stressful childhood experiences: Many people in the LGBTQIA communities realized they didn't fit in from an early age, leading to a childhood plagued by stress and insecurity.
  • Bullying: Despite wider acceptance in modern society, school victimization remains commonplace among those who identify as gay, lesbian, transgender and the like.
  • Hate crimes: Often, the experience of an LGBTQIA person goes beyond bullying, and they are met with hatred for who they are.
  • Family conflict: Sadly, many people in the LGBTQIA communities are not accepted by their closest relatives.
  • Bar and club culture: For many LGBTQIA individuals, the only place they find acceptance is in the bar and club scene, which are inundated with drugs and alcohol.

How to Support LGBTQIA Individuals

For an addiction treatment program to be effective to a person who identifies as LGBTQIA, there must be an intentionality that is sadly lacking among most rehab centers. Despite the overwhelming need for treatment, there are surprisingly few programs geared toward the unique needs of this population. The ideal support to help these individuals break free from the grips of addiction should focus on three things:

  1. Providing an environment that is welcoming of sexual minorities
  2. Including LGBTQIA staff or those who openly affirm and support these individuals
  3. Acknowledging and addressing the unique factors impacting the LGBTQIA communities

Addiction Treatment Is Available for the LGBTQIA Communities

If you or someone you love is a member of the LGBTQIA communities and struggling with a drug or alcohol addiction, we are here for you. At Diamond House Detox in northern California, we understand the unique factors impacting sexual minorities, and we offer a safe haven where you can find the professional treatment you need to break free. Our programs are highly individualized, and you will find a caring, professional staff who will walk beside you every step of the way.

If our country wants to see this stronghold of addiction break among LGBTQIA individuals, effective treatment is the first step. Contact us today to learn more.

Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner at Diamond House Detox
Vicky is a board certified Family Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, certified by the American Nurses Credentialing Center. She began her nursing career in healthcare by working in the intensive care unit, and then an inpatient psychiatric hospital. After realizing the mental health needs of both the patients and the families she served, she became a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner. Throughout her experience working with clients, she has developed a passion for those with dual diagnoses and specializes in helping individuals recognize the issues driving their substance use. This recognition has been crucial to the individual’s success in treatment. Vicky opened Diamond House Detox so that she can address these issues early on in a therapeutic environment to allow clients to transition to the next level in their recovery.
Vicky Magobet
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