People from all walks of life are impacted by substance use disorders (SUDs). Addiction doesn’t discriminate against any gender, race, background, socioeconomic level, or sexual identification. However, for some individuals, the risk of becoming dependent on a substance is higher.
According to a 2017 Gallup poll, 4.5% of the United States’ population identified as being lesbian, gay, or bisexual. That equates to millions of Americans who don’t identify as heterosexual. And for this group, although much progress has been made, there remain many stigmas to overcome. This is true in the field of substance use disorders, treatment, and recovery.
Substance use disorders amongst the LGBTQ+ population is higher, according to The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). The 2018 NSDUH reported that one-third of this group used marijuana as compared to 16% of the overall adult population. Additionally, past-year opioid use was 9% as compared to 3.8% of U.S. adults. This was an increase from the 6.4% reporting misuse in 2017.
Why the higher rates amongst these groups who are considered to be sexual minorities? People identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer often face social stigmas and discrimination that others don’t.
If you or someone you care about identifies as LGBTQ+ and has an alcohol or substance use disorder, Futures Recovery Healthcare can help. Offering multiple pathways for recovery as well as treating co-occurring disorders, like anxiety and depression, Futures compassionate staff welcomes individuals from all walks of life to begin their recovery journey.
Understanding the Increased Risk of SUD in the LGBTQ+ Community
Substance use disorders and the increased risk to develop a SUD depend on a few factors. Today, research in the field of addiction says that genetics are responsible for 50% of an individual’s chance of becoming dependent on a substance. But, there are some other factors that many in the LGBTQ+ community face which may increase the risk of misusing substances.
Trauma and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE)
Trauma is strongly correlated with an increased risk of developing AUDs and SUD. This is particularly true for those who have experienced trauma in childhood. The more types of trauma experienced in youth, the higher the chance of a SUD.
Those in the LGBTQ+ community have higher incidences of adverse childhood experiences (ACE). These experiences include abuse, violence, growing up in a family with mental health or substance abuse issues, and more. Many families will reject and even become abusive to someone in their family unit who ‘comes out’ as being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer. This lack of support, understanding, and even abuse for many are all factors that increase the risk of SUD.
At Futures, we understand just how much trauma can impact an individual and make them more prone to a SUD. Addressing trauma is a critical part of a comprehensive recovery program. Futures offers specialized trauma treatment programs which include eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), Seeking Safety—a trauma-specific program, and more.
Rejection from Friends and Family
There is little more painful than completely being rejected by those we love and trust—particularly when it comes to your own identity. For those in the LGBTQ community, this rejection is quite common and can be devastating. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 40% of LGBTQ+ adults have experienced rejection from a family member or close friend.
Rejection by the family can leave many LGBTQ+ individuals homeless. In fact, NAMI also reports that this group is 120% more likely to experience homelessness than the general population. Finding housing in homeless shelters is also a challenge and many reports being harassed for their sexual identity at these shelters as well.
When someone is living on the streets, depressed, anxious, and feeling alone and hopeless, using a substance to cope can sometimes seem the only way to relieve the pain. For many who are homeless, they end up turning to alcohol and drugs to cope.
Increased Rates of Violence
Research has shown that those who don’t identify as heterosexual have increased incidences of family conflict, bullying at school, and hate crimes in their youth. These all contribute to the development of SUDs—as well as mental health issues.
Co-Occurring Mental Health Issues in Sexual Minorities
Anyone who identifies as something other than heterosexual is considered to be in the sexual minority. This includes anyone who identifies as LGBTQ. These individuals bring unique perspectives to many topics which enables growth and evolution on many fronts.
However, this group also faces unique challenges when it comes to mental health issues. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), LGB adults are twice as likely as their heterosexual counterparts to experience a mental health problem and about four times as likely if they identify as transgender. This is particularly true for depression and anxiety disorders.
Facing discrimination, civil rights, and human rights violations, rejection from family and friends, harassment, and more on an ongoing basis, the rates of both mental health and substance use disorders increase. In addition, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), high school students who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual are five times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual classmates. And, 40% of transgender adults have attempted suicide in their lives as compared to 5% of the overall U.S. population.
Finding a treatment center that addresses not only a substance abuse issue but also any co-occurring mental health issues is essential for long-term recovery. If you think you or a loved one may need treatment for co-occurring mental health issues, Futures can help.
Treatment Options for Addiction in the LGBTQ Community
When it comes to treatment—for substance use disorders as well as other mental health issues—it has been shown that the most effective outcomes occur when the unique needs of this group and the subgroups are specifically addressed.
However, despite the growing numbers of individuals identifying as LGBTQ and increased need for mental health and substance abuse treatment, there remains a lack of focused treatment for this community.
One issue is that even when this group is considered, each subgroup has specific issues and needs which are rarely seen. Often the group is treated as a whole and treatment options deemed appropriate for one subgroup are considered to be effective for all subgroups. This simply isn’t true. Each group has separate and overlapping issues and just as each person’s treatment for mental health issues and substance use disorders should be individualized so too should the treatment for anyone in this group.
In addition to addressing the issues faced by the LGBTQ+ community when it comes to mental health and substance abuse, it is also sometimes difficult to find treatment providers who are well-versed and competent in this area.
Research has revealed, however, that the most effective addiction treatment programs for LGBTQ+ are those specifically geared to this community and their exact challenges and needs.
Futures takes the time to fully understand each person who comes to them for help, their unique challenges and needs, then customizes addiction treatment programs to address each client’s individual needs in recovery.
If you or someone you love is living with a SUD there is hope. Help is just a phone call away. You are not alone. Contact Futures Recovery Healthcare today and begin a life free from the bonds of SUD tomorrow. Contact us confidentiality online or by phone at 866-804-2098