You may know that certain demographics are at a higher risk to become addicted to drugs or alcohol than others. For example, it’s more likely that younger individuals such as teenagers and young adults will experiment with drugs and become addicted compared to someone who is older.
But did you know that those who identify as LGBT are also more likely to drink alcohol and binge drink, and nearly twice as likely to have had an alcohol or drug problem in the past year? 1
Many in the LGBTQ+ community know that although the world has come a long way in the past few years when it comes to raising awareness for LGBTQ+ issues, addiction in the community is an issue that is not talked about nearly enough.
So, why is it that those in the LGBTQ+ community have a much higher risk of being addicted to drugs or alcohol? Let’s take a look:
1. Discrimination and Fear Causes High Levels of Stress
Although the LGBTQ+ community has gotten much more support over the years, in many areas nationwide it’s still not acceptable to be openly gay, trans, bisexual, or queer. Those who experience discrimination because of their sexuality or fear that coming out would ruin relationships with their friends and family causes immense levels of stress.
This amount of stress can be traumatic. When dealing with a traumatic situation, it’s not uncommon for people to turn to drugs or alcohol to help numb their pain.
LGBTQ+ individuals are much more likely than heterosexual individuals to have depression, anxiety or other emotional or behavioral problems and to think about or attempt suicide, all of which increase the risk of substance use.
This makes sense when you think about it. Many in the LGBTQ+ community have people in their lives who are unsupportive of their sexuality, and some have experienced discrimination at work or school, or have been bullied in the past. All of these experiences can be traumatic and lead to emotional or behavioral problems.
For most people, a common source of comfort is their friends and family. If the closest people in their life are not accepting of who they are, it’s not surprising that they might turn to drugs or alcohol to escape the pain of that rejection.
Even if someone comes out to their family and friends and they’re accepting, social prejudice is another huge factor. There are still 22 states in the U.S. that don’t protect the LGBTQ+ community from discrimination in employment and housing.2 Constantly fearing that you won’t be treated equally at work or just trying to find a place to live are unique issues that many don’t understand completely.
Although California is known to be more progressive when it comes to LGBTQ+ rights, it’s still a difficult journey for anyone to come out and not live in fear.
2. Drug Use Is Sometimes Normalized in the LGBTQ+ Community
It’s pretty normal for most to wind down after a stressful day by drinking a glass of wine or a beer, right? We see this kind of behavior in gay clubs too, but it’s intensified.
The normal clubbing experience is intensified in gay clubs because of what American therapist Alan Downs calls “velvet rage” – many of those on the dance floor have escaped to city bars and clubs after suffering years of repression and bigotry. The music and the drugs offer a release and a place of sanctuary almost unimaginable to most clubbers just trying to shake off the working week.
“Gay people are more prolific and adventurous drug takers,” says Professor Fiona Measham, who has spent two decades interviewing people in gay clubs in London and Manchester.3 “There is a work hard, play hard attitude, a willingness to experiment with different drugs and an openness about that.”
So for some, it’s pretty normal to go to a club with their friends and wind down by using poppers, or even meth, to escape their stressful lives.
3. The LGBTQ+ Community Needs Unique Treatment, Which is Not Always Offered
People who are in the LGBTQ+ community and struggle with addiction have unique issues that led to their drug use, issues that many others can’t relate to. Going to an addiction treatment center that is understanding and compassionate is crucial for their recovery.
Unfortunately, many rehabs do not offer treatment programs that are specialized for the LGBTQ+ community.
A national study found that, of the 854 treatment programs that reported to have specialized treatment services for LGBTQ+ people, only 62 confirmed these services actually existed during a telephone follow-up.4 This means that about 70% of the addiction treatment services noted as specialized for LGBTQ+ people were really no different from those provided to non-LGBTQ+ people.
It can also be very difficult for someone who is still in the closet, or someone who has experienced so much discrimination in their life after coming out, to trust their therapist in a non-specialized LGBTQ+ treatment program. Having a therapist and being surrounded by other staff who are LGBTQ+ or openly supportive of the community can make the recovery process a better journey.
I started researching various different rehabilitation centers and I found Michael’s House in Palm Springs. I loved the fact that they have a LGBTQ track. I had never really been able to talk about being the victim of a gay hate crime.
Where Can the LGBTQ+ Community Receive Help?
At Michael’s House, we offer support and understanding for LGBTQ+ individuals seeking recovery. We understand that different populations have different needs, and to meet those unique needs we offer integrated treatment with a specific track for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer individuals.By being able to process these experiences in a safe setting and surrounded by a supportive therapeutic community, LGBTQ+ individuals can rediscover themselves and find new strength in a positive life path. Drugs and alcohol are no longer needed to self-medicate emotional or psychological pain, and any mental health issues can be addressed and managed in a caring, comprehensive way.
AN ALUMNI STORY:
Being in the hands of highly experienced and compassionate staff in the beautiful city of Palm Springs, California can help the transition to sobriety a hopeful one. Call Michael’s House today at 760-548-4032 to help you or a loved one in the LGBTQ+ community recover from addiction.
1 Center on Addiction. Why Does the LGBT Community Face Higher Risk for Substance Abuse and Addiction?. Web. Retrieved November 25, 2019.
2 Movement Advancement Project. Snapshot: LGBTQ Equality by State. Web. Retrieved November 25, 2019.
3 Max Daly. How Gay Clubs Changed the Way We Take Drugs. Vice. Web. Retrieved November 25, 2019.
4 Cochran BN1, Peavy KM, Robohm JS. 2007. Do specialized services exist for LGBT individuals seeking treatment for substance misuse? A study of available treatment programs. Web. Retrieved November 25, 2019.