While there has been some progress for those in addiction in the LGBTQ community in the United States, there are still many ongoing issues and struggles that are impacting the health and well-being of the community as a whole. In particular LBGTQ youth, who, on top of experiencing the normal issues of adolescence, must also deal with the stress of when to come out, how to do it, how family members and friends will react, along with the ongoing fear of being ostracized and bullied.
Having to endure chronic stress from such a young age can lead to an increased likelihood of turning to drugs and alcohol to cope, which in-turn leads to an increased likelihood of addiction. This has unfortunately been the case within the LGBTQ community, where there are disproportionately higher rates of substance use and abuse. According to the CDC, studies have shown that in comparison to the general population, those within the LGBTQ community are more likely to use drugs and alcohol, experience higher rates of substance abuse, and continue drinking later into life.1
The abuse of crystal meth in particular has rapidly increased. Other stimulants that are likely to be abused within the LGBTQ community include crack and cocaine, as well as party drugs like ecstasy, and depressants such as alcohol, valium and Xanax. While these drugs may be used to escape the harsh realities of daily life, the resulting addiction leads to an even worse reality, from deteriorating physical and mental health, to overdose and death.
A Community in Crisis
Those in the LGBTQ community are prone to experiencing almost double the rate of addiction as the general population. Studies conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration have shown the rate of substance abuse disorders within the LBTQ community to be 20% to 30%, whereas the rate amongst the general population is around 9%.
Research has confirmed that those within the LGBTQ community are more likely to experience prejudice, and that the stressors that are associated with being ostracized lead to an increased likelihood of addiction. Whether it is exclusion from peers, rejection from family members or religious communities, or bullying in verbal or physical form, the pervasive discrimination experienced by those in the LGBTQ community plays a critical role in the increased likelihood of addiction. The American Journal of Public Health reports that LGBTQ individuals who have experienced multiple forms of prejudice in their lifetime are four times more likely to develop some type of substance abuse disorder.2
The adverse health impacts associated with addiction make getting to the root of this crisis imperative for the overall well-being of the community. While one can hope that over time, the discriminatory issues faced by many in this community will lessen, something needs to be done to address this crisis immediately. Education needs to start earlier to help the LGTBQ youth avoid the pitfalls of substance use and abuse, by finding different coping mechanisms for dealing with the struggles and stressors many face on a daily basis.
Additionally, facilities that offer treatment for both mental health and substance abuse issues need to make it clear that they are welcoming to the LGBTQ lifestyle and community. Our current health care system has failed this community in the past, and there is a definitive hesitancy within the community to reach out for treatment when it is needed.
Signs and Symptoms of Addiction:
The consequences of substance abuse and addiction are devastating. For a community that has suffered enough, adding a prevalence of addiction and the health crisis associated with it is truly tragic. While many actions must be taken to lower the rate of addiction in the LGBTQ community, at the moment we must also be able to help those who are in the midst of struggling with drugs and alcohol. If you are concerned that you or a loved one may be addicted to drugs or alcohol, be on the lookout for the following signs that may require you to attend a LGBTQ treatment center:
- Irritability, anxiety or depression
- Unusual sleep patterns – either insomnia or excessive sleep
- Extreme paranoia / delusions
- An increased tolerance for alcohol or a drug to achieve the original intended high
- Symptoms associated with withdrawal when use of the substance is stopped
If you are someone you love is experiencing any of the above signs, don’t hesitate to contact INSERT about getting help today.