A recent study published in the Journal of School Health reveals troubling findings: transgender adolescents are 2.5 times more likely than their non-transgender peers to use cocaine and methamphetamines in their lifetimes. They’re also twice as likely to report the misuse of prescription pain medication. If you are transgender or if you care for someone who is transgender, this information can be disheartening. However, there’s also hope: The right preventative and treatment can help transgender people lead happy, fulfilled and substance abuse-free lives.
Understanding Transgender Substance Abuse
We’ve long known that members of the LGBTQ community have higher rates of substance use and abuse than their peers. However, the latest data zeroes in specifically on transgender substance abuse. This is particularly noteworthy because research on substance abuse by transgender teens is scant.
Attributing higher rates of substance abuse in the transgender community to being transgender is misguided, however. Explains Chapman University’s assistant professor of educational studies and the study’s lead author, “When it comes to transgender teens, it’s the transphobia that impacts [their drug use], not being transgender.”
Addressing the Issue
Members of the LGBTQ community have higher rates of social stress in their lives — both from their families and schools. This causes behavioral health disparities, including substance use and abuse.
Continues De Pedro, “In order to reduce the likelihood of a kid to resort to drugs as a means to cope, there has to be some sort of social support mechanism. We have these drug prevention programs in schools that are for everybody, but we really need to fill a fundamental need for [transgender] kids, and that’s the need to feel accepted and affirmed.”
This starts at home with family acceptance. Brian Altman, director of the Division of Policy innovation at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) told NBC News, “Research has shown that LGBT youth and young adults whose parents support them show greater well-being, better general health, and significantly decreased risk for suicide, depression and substance abuse.”
Unfortunately, if corrective measures aren’t taken in the form of providing acceptance and affirmations, these feelings — and behaviors — can continue into adulthood.
Not only that, but while many transgender teens fall victim to substance use and misuse due to lack of family acceptance, other factors can also lead to addiction — both in adolescence and later life. These include homophobia, discrimination, stigma, and violent behaviors such as teasing, harassment, bullying, and physical assault. This, in turn, can lead to self-medication, substance use, and addiction.
The good news is that society is moving in the direction of acceptance and inclusion of transgender people. The bad news is that we aren’t there yet. In the meantime, addressing the underlying issues that lead to substance abuse can make all the difference — both in prevention and treatment. If you or someone you love is transgender and struggling with substance abuse, there is hope for a better life. However, all drug and rehabilitation programs aren’t created equal. Finding a program with experience and expertise dealing with LGBTQ addiction can offer the best chance of recovery. Enter leading St. Louis rehabilitation Harris House. Contact us today to learn more about our outpatient and inpatient substance abuse treatment program for LGBTQ individuals.