Substance abuse is an equal opportunity affliction that impacts people across all demographics. However, some subsets of the population are more at risk of addiction than others. One such group? Sexual minorities, including those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT), according to a recent report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Here’s a closer look at the LGBT addiction data, along with some key takeaways.
About the Study
SAMHSA’s annual “National Survey on Drug Use and Health” added questions on sexual orientation for the first time in 2015—one pertaining to sexual identity and the other pertaining to sexual attraction. This first-ever nationally representative, federally collected look into substance use and mental health issues among sexual minorities yielded some interesting insights.
Its conclusion? Sexual minorities were more likely to suffer from substance use issues than their sexual majority peers. Specifically, says the report,
“Sexual minorities were more likely to use illicit drugs in the past year, to be current cigarette smokers, and to be current alcohol drinkers compared with their sexual majority counterparts. Sexual minority adults were also more likely than sexual majority adults to have substance use disorders in the past year, including disorders related to their use of alcohol, illicit drugs, marijuana, or misuse of pain relievers.”
Just how big of a problem is substance abuse among the LGBT community? While the data is limited, some studies suggest the rate of substance abuse disorders may be as high as 30 percent for LGBT individuals compared to nine percent of the general population, as reported by Social Work Today.
And yet, awareness about substance abuse in the LGBT community is alarmingly low. As Jeremy Goldbach, Ph.D., LMSW, an assistant professor at the University of Southern California School of Social Work, told Social Work Today,
“Less than half a percent of all [National Institutes of Health] funding went to LGBT issues, and within that half a percent, 82 percent was focused on sexual risk and HIV. So if it’s not about sexual risk or HIV—and primarily in adult gay men…we basically have no idea.”
In other words, not only is the full extent of the LGBT addiction problem unknown, but it’s also a sorely overlooked subject.
LGBT and Drug Abuse
Research also indicates that certain drugs are more popular than others within the LGBT community. Says the Pride Institute,
“Gay men, for example, are significantly more likely to have used marijuana, stimulants, sedatives, cocaine, and party drugs (ecstasy, ketamine, and GHB) than men in the general population. The use of crystal methamphetamine in gay and bisexual men has increased dramatically in recent years.”
All of which begs the question: Why is substance abuse so much more of a problem among LGBT people? Scientists attribute it partly to the stress caused by dealing with common challenges faced by sexual minorities, such as family rejection, stigma, and discrimination.
LGBT Addiction and Substance Abuse Treatment
The SAMHSA study also revealed another important conclusion: That sexual minorities are more likely than their sexual minority counterparts to need substance abuse treatment. And yet, according to Social Work Today,
“As adults, LGBT people may be discouraged from seeking substance use treatment because of previous negative experiences in coming out to health care providers, anticipating negative reactions from the providers, or having heard about others’ bad experiences when seeking treatment.”
The takeaway? While substance abuse treatment is critically important, finding the right substance abuse treatment program—particularly one that provides a welcoming, supportive, and tolerant environment along with sessions aimed at addressing LGBT-specific issues—is even more imperative.
We’re Here to Help
To learn more about Harris House’s LGBT substance abuse treatment programs, contact us today.