Finding the right substance abuse treatment program is a priority for people of all ages and situations. However, the issue can be even more paramount for people from marginalized communities. One group requiring particular attention when it comes to substance abuse treatment is LGBT individuals.
Here is a closer look at why members of the LGBT community may require individualized support in order to best facilitate their path to sobriety and recovery.
More Threats to LGBT Health and Wellbeing
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), “sexual minority adults” have higher rates of substance use.
“Sexual minority adults were more likely to use illicit drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes than sexual majority adults. Sexual minority adult past year illicit drug use was higher than the prevalence of sexual majority adults (39.1 percent versus 17.1 percent). The higher prevalence of illicit drug use among sexual minority adults was also seen across age and gender groups, as well as among users of different illicit drugs,” reveals a report based on the organization’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH).
But that is not all. Members of the LGBT community are also at increased risk for mental illness. Continues the SAMHSA report: “Sexual minority adults were more than twice as likely as sexual majority adults to have experienced any kind of mental illness in the past year (37.4 percent versus 17.1 percent). They also had a higher prevalence of past year serious mental illness than their sexual majority counterparts (13.1 versus 3.6 percent).”
The unfortunate result of these two separate but related statistics is a “perfect storm” of opportunity when it comes to addiction, as drug use disorders and mental illness often co-occur.
It is not happenstance that LGBT individuals are more prone to both substance abuse and mental illness. Rather, the fact that members of marginalized communities are often discriminated against can result in social stressors which increase the risk of substance abuse and mental health problems.
Say researchers from the University College of London: “There are a number of reasons why gay people may be more likely to report psychological difficulties, which include difficulties growing up in a world orientated to heterosexual norms and values and the negative influence of social stigma against homosexuality….In addition, the gay commercial world in which some men and women may participate to find partners and friends may make misuse of alcohol and cigarettes more likely. The former in particular can have adverse effects on mental well-being.”
While this news is unsettling, there is also good news, according to SAMHSA. Members of the LGBT community are more likely to receive necessary treatments for both substance abuse and mental illness than their sexual majority counterparts.
A Community-Based Approach
However, it is critical to note that not all substance abuse treatment programs are created equal — especially when it comes to meeting the unique needs of LGBT people. Because while the statistics are indeed revealing, recovery lies in the individual. More precisely, what issues are at the root of an LGBT individual’s substance abuse and addiction, and how can they best be understood, addressed, and resolved?
Elaine M. Maccio, Ph.D., LCSW, told Social Work Today of the heightened imperative to treat the individual root causes of addiction in members of the LGBT community: “The cardinal rule of social work is to start where the client is, including self-identification. Again, it’s not the treatment that’s different but the approach to it that is.”
The same premise applies to substance abuse treatment. Programs that approach addiction and the recovery process from a culturally sensitive perspective are most likely to be most comprehensive — and successful — in helping individuals not only conquer their addictions but learn to thrive in their own, addiction-free skin. To learn more about Harris House’s substance abuse programs for LGBT community members, contact us today.