Why Is Substance Abuse Disorder In The LGBT Population so prevalent?


Statistically, Substance abuse disorder in the LGBT population is experienced at higher rates than their heterosexual counterparts. LGBT individuals may encounter unique hurdles and challenges that result in higher rates of illegal substance use to cope with emotional challenges. Effective integrated treatment for substance use disorders and accompanying mental health issues can address the unique struggles faced by the LGBT community. Finding a supportive and inclusive substance abuse treatment program will assist a long-term recovery.  

Substance Abuse Disorder In the LGBT Population and Addictive Coping Methods to Escape Pain

Family Issues – Many LGBT individuals do not come from supportive families. For example, some parents are homophobic and refuse to accept their children’s sexual orientation. Others may be taking but lack support when dealing with depression. As a result, LGBT individuals may turn to drugs to help them cope with these problems. This will increase the chances of substance abuse disorder in the LGBT population.

Social Discrimination – The stigma associated with being an LGBT person is often worse than that experienced by heterosexuals. This social discrimination means that LGBT individuals may isolate themselves from their peers, leading them to resort to drugs for comfort. Additionally, many LGBT people face discrimination or even hate crimes, which can lead to seeking out illegal substances to cope with these problems.

Stigma – The fact that LGBT individuals are often stigmatized could make obtaining health care and treatment difficult. Many will turn to drugs to deal with their symptoms when this happens.

Prejudice – Some LGBT individuals may suffer from internalized homophobia, which is the fear of being discriminated against based on one’s sexuality. Internalized homophobia leads many gay men and lesbians to experience internal conflict with their feelings. These individuals may develop addictions to escape their pain.


Co-Occurring Mental Health Disorders

Stress felt from exclusion, stigmatization, and prejudice can lead to feelings of isolation and depression. Recovery programs that address the dual diagnosis of co-occurring disorders will effectively treat complex issues accompanying addiction.

  • Clinical Depression – Depression is a common problem among LGBT individuals who experience social isolation and are excluded or stigmatized because of their sexual orientation. It is also common among those rejected by family members or friends due to their same-sex attractions.

  • Anxiety Disorders – Anxiety is another common issue for LGBT individuals who struggle with social rejection. Their rejection concerns result in anxiety about how others will react to their same-sex attraction.

  • Eating Disorders – Eating disorders such as Anorexia Nervosa are more prevalent for LGBT adults, often due to the feeling of being unable to control societal prejudices. Controlling food intake, such as skipping meals and eating very little, were among the most commonly reported behaviors associated with disordered eating among lesbians.

  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – PTSD is a condition that occurs after exposure to traumatic events. Many LGBT individuals have suffered emotional abuse and trauma related to their sexual orientation. A study found that LGBT individuals were twice as likely to report having experienced physical assault compared to heterosexual individuals. This trauma can cause anxiety and depression, leading to addiction issues.

 Integrative Therapeutic Treatments as Recovery Resources

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) This treatment is a form of psychotherapy for treating mental health conditions. Anxiety disorders, depression, eating disorders, OCD, and PTSD, are many it can treat. It involves discussing negative thoughts and feelings with a trained professional with experience working with these issues.

  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a cognitive-behavioral therapy to treat self-destructive and suicidal behaviors. DBT helps people acquire skills to manage negative experiences, emotions, and behavior to treat substance abuse and troubling situations.

  • Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy is a mindfulness-based intervention where behavioral health providers teach patients to focus on present experiences without judgment. This mental health treatment aims to help them notice when they’re getting caught up in obsessive thinking patterns and replace them with new ways of thinking.

Overcoming Treatment Challenges on the Road To Recovery

Compared to the rest of society, Substance abuse disorder in the LGBT population is alarmingly high. Achieving sustained recovery from substance abuse with an addiction treatment program as an LBTQ adult requires overcoming barriers to success. Trust issues and fear of discrimination by medical and behavioral providers may cause LBTQ patients to hide their identities while seeking help. Many LGBT individuals do not feel comfortable disclosing their sexual orientation to their doctors or therapists. Holding back contributes to the difficulty of overcoming addiction and achieving long-term sobriety.

 Choosing LGBTQ-Friendly Addiction Treatment Centers 

  1. Patient Collaboration – Look for programs that allow the patient to have a voice in the treatment process, will ensure a sense of trust, and promote feelings of empowerment essential in the healing process.

  2. Range of Modalities – Search out competent programs with targeted and specialized treatments. They address the co-occurring conditions of LGBT adults. It addresses a particular addiction and its problematic substance use issues while providing well-rounded individual therapy options to meet unique LGBT needs.

  3. Inclusive Environment – Ensure that programs accept transgender and nonbinary patients and their gender identity rather than only recognizing the gender assigned at birth.

  4. Continuing Care & Support – Opt for a program with supplemental support services that coordinate follow-up aftercare after discharge. Support after discharge will provide the extra protection needed to guard against the risk of relapse.

Please call 911 if you are experiencing a medical emergency or call our admissions department for support at (801) 499-9316

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