HomeBlogNew Study Highlights Increased Risks for Psychiatric Disorders Among LGBTQ+ Population with SUD

New Study Highlights Increased Risks for Psychiatric Disorders Among LGBTQ+ Population with SUD

Written By: Harris House

Category: Blog

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While the LGBTQ+ community may be more accepted than in the past, they still experience greater stress due to discrimination — with troubling consequences.

The LGBTQ+ population faces a number of distinct challenges. Now, research from the University of Michigan confirms yet another complication: Sexual minorities with certain substance use disorders are also at a higher risk for co-occurring psychiatric disorders. Here’s a closer look at the research, along with what it means for addiction treatment for members of the LGBTQ+ community and the people who love them.


Substance Use and Comorbid Psychiatric Disorders

Researchers set out to examine the psychiatric comorbidities associated with smoking and drinking among LGBTQ+ men and women. They also sought to determine the role of stress-related factors as predictive of these comorbidities.

The findings were eye-opening: 55 percent of bisexual individuals and 51 percent of gay or lesbian individuals who’d had a past-year alcohol use disorder also had a psychiatric comorbidity, compared to just one-third of their heterosexual counterparts. The same phenomenon was seen regarding past-year tobacco use disorder.

Bisexual women, in particular, had the most prevalent rates of comorbidities for anxiety disorders, mood disorders, and post-traumatic dress disorder.

“The degree of disparities in alcohol, tobacco and other psychiatric disorders by sexual identity was very surprising. … The differences for women are more striking,” said the study’s lead author, Rebecca Evans-Polce.

Making Sense of the Data

While the reasons for this data aren’t yet confirmed, researchers assert that stressors like discrimination and trauma are likely to blame for these troubling disparities.

In fact, greater odds of comorbidities were associated with several factors among LGBTQ+ community members. These include increased sexual orientation discrimination, more stressful life events, and more adverse childhood experiences. Additionally, lack of social support was associated with tobacco use disorder comorbidities.

While prior research has pointed to a link between sexual minorities, substance use disorders and psychiatric disorders, this study was the first to look more closely at the issue of risk, according to Psychiatric Times. 


Behavioral health treatments are an important part of drug rehabilitation, especially when they are targeted to individual needs.

The Targeted Treatment Imperative

One clear takeaway? Given this latest data, along with the evidence suggesting the role of increased stressors in the correlation, greater substance use and mental health prevention and treatment programs are in order. Alongside medication, behavioral health treatments are a vital treatment strategy, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

“For example, counseling and more specialized psychotherapies seek to change behaviors, thoughts, emotions, and how people see and understand situations,”  says SAMHSA. However, counseling alone isn’t enough. Treatments must also be designed to meet the individual needs and symptoms of each person.

Additionally, comprehensive treatment that specifically addresses these underlying issues can be invaluable in supporting the journey to recovery while mitigating the risk of relapse. Enter Harris House. This leading St. Louis area drug rehab offers targeted addiction treatment aimed at holistically treating each patient’s unique needs.

If you or someone you love is struggling with substance use disorder, call us today to learn about admissions.

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