Substance Abuse Factors in the LGBTQ Community

addiction factors

Individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer (LGBTQ) face many challenges in their lives. As a result of the issues that they deal with, including misunderstandings and discrimination, they may develop mental health issues at a greater rate. There are also substantial substance abuse factors in the LGBTQ community, which should be addressed properly for the individual’s mental and physical health.

National Coming Out Day

Given the challenges, many people are hesitant to live openly and authentically as a member of the LGBTQ community. To offer encouragement and support, October 11 has been designated as National Coming Out Day. The 33rd anniversary of the landmark day is being celebrated in 2021 with the theme, “Born to Shine!”

The first National Coming Out Day was celebrated as part of the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. It continues to be recognized as a reminder that “one of our most basic tools is the power of coming out.”

Substance Abuse Factors

Social stigma and discrimination are a few of the challenges facing individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer. Other challenges include a greater risk of violence and harassment. These issues contribute to the substance abuse factors in the LGBTQ community, as these individuals are more stressed and are at increased risk for behavioral health issues.

The 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) revealed that substance use patterns reported by adults identifying as members of the sexual minority were higher compared to those reported by heterosexual adults:

  • More than a third (37.6 percent) reported past year marijuana use, compared to 16.2% reported by the overall adult population.
  • Past year opioid use (including misuse of prescription opioids or heroin use) was also higher with 9% of sexual minority adults aged 18 or older reporting use compared to 3.8% among the overall adult population.
  • 9% of sexual minority adults aged 26 or older reported past year misuse of prescription opioids—an increase from the 6.4% who reported misuse in 2017.

There was a significant decline in past year prescription opioid misuse among sexual minority adults aged 18-25 with 8.3% reporting use in 2018.

Substance Abuse Among Men

Additional studies have also confirmed that gay and bisexual men, as well as lesbian and transgender people, are more likely to:

  • Use alcohol and drugs
  • Have higher rates of substance abuse
  • Not withhold from alcohol and drug use
  • Continue heavy drinking into later life.

Among the substance abuse factors for gay and bisexual men are their reactions to the homophobia, discrimination, or violence they may experience as a result of their sexual orientation. These substance abuse issues can also contribute to other physical and mental health concerns, resulting in problems with relationships, work, and finances.

Effective Substance Abuse Treatment for Men

Individuals in the LGBTQ community often experience severe substance use disorders. However, treatment is effective for the underlying mental health issues as well as the addiction. Programs that offer specialized groups for gay and bisexual men have shown better outcomes for those individuals in comparison to men who have participated in non-specialized programs. To be effective, treatment will address the substance abuse factors that may include family issues, social isolation, and homophobia or transphobia.

Mental health issues should also be addressed, along with the substance use disorder. When the two conditions co-occur, they are part of a dual diagnosis. Treatment for both conditions is most effective when conducted together.

Individuals in the LGBTQ community are more likely to have mental health disorders. Gay and bisexual men, along with lesbian and bisexual women, report more frequent incidents of mental distress and depression than heterosexual men and women. Treatment to address these issues often includes evidence-based therapy options such as motivational interviewing and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), designed to encourage men to open up honestly and frankly, without fear of pressure or judgment.  

Gender-Specific Addiction and Mental Health Treatment

When you are struggling with a substance abuse issue, we are here for you. Detox and supervised withdrawal will help you safely process the mental and physical symptoms so you can move forward with a healthy recovery. If you are struggling with an addiction or mental illness, please contact PACE Recovery Center to learn more about our programs and services. We offer gender-specific treatment for men who have a desire to turn their life around. Recovery is possible, and we can help.