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LGBTQ & Addiction

People who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or questioning (LGBTQ) suffer from higher rates of social discrimination and stigmatization. Due to the elevated stress levels associated with the constant rejection, abuse and social isolation, members of the LBGTQ community also experience higher rates of substance abuse problems as compared to the general population.

What the Research Says

Recent research has shown an increase in the prevalence of substance abuse among members of the LGBTQ community compared to the general population. The higher rates of addiction that occur in these communities can be attributed to many factors: rejection, hate crimes, social isolation, abuse and more. Some of the most common substances abused include tobacco, drugs and alcohol.

Although there’s little data available on the rates of substance abuse in the LGBTQ community, the statistics below are fair estimates of the growing substance abuse rates among members of the LGBTQ community in the United States:

  • Some 25 percent of LGBTQ individuals abuse alcohol, compared to five to ten percent of the general population. According to SAMHSA, injection drugs, cocaine, methamphetamine, and marijuana are the most common drugs used by transgender people.
  • In a separate SAMHSA report conducted in 2015, 30.7 percent of LGBTQ adults reported using marijuana in the past year while 39.1 percent used illicit drugs and 10.4 percent misused prescription pain relievers.
  • LGBTQ men are 9.5 times more likely to use heroin than members of the general population and 3.5 times more likely to use marijuana.
  • A U.S. Census Bureau survey from 2013 found that a higher percentage of LGBTQ adults reported binge drinking in past years compared to their heterosexual counterparts.
  • According to a study by PubMed Central (PMC), up to one-third of LGBTQ men and two-thirds of women in the LGBTQ community had or have substance abuse problems in the United States alone.
  • Members of the LGBTQ community are up to 200 percent more likely to smoke tobacco than their heterosexual and nontransgender peers.

Why Higher Rates of Substance Abuse Are Found Within the LGBTQ Community

Members of the LGBTQ community report facing issues like discrimination, stigma and open hostility in workplaces and other public areas, treatment centers and even in their own homes and social circles. For this reason, LGBTQ individuals turn to substance abuse to mask the pain of rejection.

Some of the most common reasons for higher rates of substance abuse found within the LGBTQ community include:

  • Higher rates of emotional or psychological disorders
  • Higher prevalence of physical health challenges
  • Employment discrimination
  • Lack of access to affordable health care
  • Elevated levels of stress related to social isolation
  • Increased probability of discrimination in treatment centers

Unlike other businesses, our trained professionals at Gateway do not shy away from LGBTQ concerns. Sadly, a select number of individuals have been denied coverage by certain health care providers on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation. To combat this and address the stigma surrounding the LGBTQ community, we’ve recently launched Out in Recovery, a residential treatment program for LGBTQ individuals.

If you or someone you know is a part of the LGBTQ community and struggling with substance abuse, know you are not alone. For help with your recovery or answers to your questions, contact Gateway today.

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