People struggling with substance use disorder are on a challenging journey. However, for members of the LGBTQ community, the journey can be especially challenging given the unique obstacles they face.
If you or a loved one has already accepted the fact that there is a problem for which treatment is required, then you have already taken an important step on the journey. However, what you do next is equally important: Finding the right addiction treatment program.
Here’s a closer look at key considerations to be aware of when choosing a substance abuse rehabilitation center.
The Complex Phenomenon of LGBTQ Addiction
In order to understand the phenomenon, it’s first important to understand the data. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), people who identify as “sexual minority,” which includes lesbian, gay, and bisexual as defined by the survey, are more than twice as likely as their heterosexual counterparts to use illicit drugs. They’re also more likely to have substance abuse disorders (SUDs) and to have more severe SUDs, too.
Furthermore, sexual minorities who have SUDs are also at greater risk for co-occurring psychiatric disorders, such as mental distress and depression. Lastly, LGBTQ people are also at higher risk for HIV resulting from the combination of risky sexual behaviors and IV drug use.
None of this is happenstance. Rather, the stress and discrimination experienced by members of the LGBTQ community throughout their lives often lead to substance abuse as a form of self-medication. Not only that but the places where LGBTQ people find acceptance also tend to be places where high-risk behaviors occur, such as bars and clubs.
Unique Challenges, Unique Treatments
Addiction treatment works not by merely separating a user from a substance, but by addressing the underlying conditions that first led to and perpetuated substance abuse. And while all addicts and addictions are different, there are often commonalities.
In the case of LGBTQ people, these commonalities are not only significant, but also a contributing factor in what led to substance use, abuse, and addiction in the first place. According to NIDA, “Current research suggests that [LGBTQ] treatment should address unique factors in these patients’ lives that may include homophobia/transphobia, family problems, violence, and social isolation.”
In addition to treating the unique factors faced by LGBTQ people, targeted treatment also provides a safe, judgment-free, and inclusive space — which is something many LGBTQ community members do not have in their daily lives. In addition to a lack of acceptance from their families and in the workplace, LGBTQ people may also encounter stereotypes and stigmas in healthcare settings. It is critical that treatment centers be free of this threat in order to promote sharing and healing.
The Targeted Treatment Imperative
All of which begs the question: How do you find the right LGBTQ addiction treatment center?
Intention is a huge part of it.
Look for a rehab program that has been intentionally designed to meet the treatment needs of the LGBTQ community. This may involve programming separated out by sexual orientation and/or gender identity and staffed by professionals who are trained in LGBTQ issues. They may also be part of the community themselves.
A high level of familiarity with the LGBTQ experience ensures an adequate understanding of the unique stressors LGBTQ people experience, thereby ensuring an open, honest, and non-judgmental treatment environment.
When considering LGBTQ treatment programs, look into whether they offer additional programming aimed at addressing LGBTQ-specific issues, such as homophobia and transphobia, family rejection, coming out, and discrimination. LGBTQ addiction programs will hone in on specific issues like learning to cope with discrimination in a variety of settings; handling shame, anxiety, and depression related to sexual orientation and gender identity.
If you are seeking treatment for a transgender person, gender grouping and housing is also a key consideration. In the case of single-gender group therapy or other activities, will the person be able to participate in the group or stay in the facilities with which they identify?
One last thing to keep in mind? While many programs will bill themselves as LGBTQ-inclusive, these may fall short of providing the comprehensive programming that will best support the recovery process. Why? Because “inclusive” may merely suggest tolerance. Conversely, the verbiage LGBTQ-affirmative indicates another level of treatment that goes beyond tolerance and acceptance to the purposeful addressing of the underlying drivers of LGBTQ substance abuse and addiction. LGBTQ-affirmative rehab centers are uniquely validating because they put the LGBTQ experience first.
If you or someone you love is a member of the LGBTQ community and is struggling with addiction, the sooner you seek treatment, the sooner you’ll be on the road to recovery. Leading St. Louis area rehab Harris House offers targeted treatment for LGBTQ individuals aimed at supporting recovery toward a healthy and fulfilling life. Call us today to learn about admissions.