Overcoming the Addiction in the LGBTQ Community

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Overcoming the Addiction in the LGBTQ Community

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(Photo by Ike louie Natividad)

The many challenges faced by Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer persons are partly the reason why addiction rates are high in the community. Substance abuse rates are generally higher in the LGBTQ community than in the population of heterosexual people. This can be attributed to the obstacles that society imposes upon this community. And, these obstacles are faced by the members of this community every day.

Among the major challenges that are faced by the members of the LGBTQ community include:

  • Stigmatization or discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation
  • Emotional abuse, public humiliation, ridicule, threats, and hate crimes
  • Employment loss and not being promoted
  • Shame or rejection from friends and family members after making their sexuality known
  • Self-hatred or internalized homophobia

In most cases, LGBTQ persons turn to alcohol or drugs to self-medicate the effects of the prejudice that is meted on them by society. Unfortunately, this leads to addiction that sees some of them end up in a gay rehab center. These are treatment centers that are sensitive to the unique needs of the members of this community. In addition to providing addiction treatment, they also address the underlying aspects that might have led them to substance use or abuse. This is very important to their overall recovery process.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, members of the LGBTQ community are twice more likely to use illicit drugs than heterosexual adults. It’s estimated that 20 to 30% of the members of the LGBTQ community abuse substances in comparison to around 9% of the entire population.

LGBTQ-Specific Treatment

Programs of LGBT rehab facilities yield better outcomes than non-specialized programs. That’s because these programs are tailored to address the unique factors faced by the patients. They include transphobia or homophobia, violence, social isolation, and family problems.

Substance abuse helps the members of the LGBTQ community deal with uncomfortable feelings of anger, fear, depression, and anxiety. Thus, it might seem beneficial at first. However, substance abuse has many negative, long-term consequences that led these individuals to LGBT-friendly rehab centers.

Transgender individuals are also vulnerable to the use of addictive substances to address feelings of loneliness and anxiety. That’s because of the discrimination and negative stigma they face from heterosexual individuals. Thus, transgender individuals are more than twice likely to use meth or cocaine, as well as, prescription medications like benzodiazepines and opioids.

Co-Occurring Disorders in the LGBTQ Community

Members of the LGBTQ community are mostly forced to lead a “closeted” life. That’s where a person hides sexuality because they fear rejection. Thus, they live a double life when it comes to sexual orientation. Keeping sexuality secret can take a psychological toll on a person. And, this explains why co-occurring disorders are common among LGBTQ persons. Leading a closeted life is the reason why many people in the LGBTQ community end up developing emotional distress and mental health disorders.

Here are common emotional and psychological disorders among the members of the LGBTQ community:

  • High-stress levels
  • General anxiety disorder
  • Major depression
  • Self-harming tendencies or suicide attempts

Apart from the societal challenges that are faced by these members, they also experience health and physical issues that relate to their sexuality that also play a role in their addiction.

These include:

  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Compulsive sexual behavior
  • HIV or sex-related anxiety
  • Assault or sexual abuse

Many members of the LGBTQ community suffer from sexual disorders or co-occurring mental disorders that caused their substance abuse or are perpetuating their abuse. The best LGBTQ rehabilitation centers provide treatment for addiction and co-occurring disorders. This increases the chances of long-term recovery and sobriety.

Commonly Abused Drugs in the LGBTQ Community

Many substances are addictive. However, some addictive substances are frequently abused by the members of the LGBTQ community than others.

Here are the common drugs that members of the LGBTQ community abuse the most:

  • Tobacco – Transgender and gay individuals consume tobacco up to 200% than heterosexual individuals.
  • Alcohol – Alcohol tendency ranges between moderate and severe in between 20 and 25% of the LGBTQ community.
  • Marijuana – Gay men are likely to consume marijuana 3.5 times more than straight men.
  • Amphetamines – LGBTQ community members are 12.2 times likely to use amphetamines than heterosexual individuals.
  • Heroine – Individuals that identify as LGBTQ members are 9.5 times likely to consume heroin than straight persons.

Beating Addiction

Just like heterosexual individuals, members of the LGBTQ community can overcome addiction. But, most LGBTQ individuals are hesitant to seek help because they don’t know about the available resources. Currently, many rehab facilities address the individual needs of the members of this community.

These provide different treatment programs whose goal is to treat addiction while addressing the underlying causes of the substance abuse problem. Some of the issues that these facilities address alongside addiction include the isolation that is experienced by the LGBTQ community members. They also focus on address the long-term effects of the closeted life that is led by most members of the LGBTQ community, as well as, discrimination.

What’s more, LGBTQ addiction treatment centers help in pinpointing co-occurring mental health disorders. This helps in ensuring long-lasting recovery and healing. That’s because if the underlying causes of addiction are not addressed, a person has a higher chance of relapsing. These facilities also equip patients with important life skills that enhance their recovery.

The Bottom Line

LGBTQ community members have a higher addiction rate. That’s partly because they face many obstacles and challenges than heterosexual individuals. Many LGBTQ community members abuse alcohol and drugs trying to self-medicate for the pain caused by some of these challenges. Unfortunately, the continued use of drugs and alcohol leads to addiction. Luckily, many rehab facilities specialize in treating and providing specialized care to members of the LGBTQ community. They also provide an environment that gives these individuals a sense of belonging instead of feeling like minorities in a large society. Undergoing treatment in these facilities provide the encouragement and support that LGBTQ community members need to recover from addiction.