Marijuana leaf, cigarette, 3 pills of different colors, a pipe for smoking, and 2 beer mugs are placed against a light grey backdrop to showcase different substance options.

Addiction in the LGBTQ+ Community

By Jernice Kelley
Web Content Contributor

An addiction described as a heightened dependency on a substance, thing or activity. It is something that does not only affect one set group or person. Anyone can be dealing with these issues no matter what walk of life they are from.

However, addiction does disproportionately affect the LGBTQ+ population at an alarming rate. The chances of those in the sexual minority to suffer from addiction are doubled when compared to their heterosexual peers.

Why is Addiction Prevalent in the Community?

Several factors contribute to the prevalence of substance abuse within the LGBTQ+ community; one of the leading causes happens to be the lack of support for members of the community.

The fear of having a lack of support from family, friends and peers is something that keeps many members from choosing to disclose their sexual orientation. The fear of rejection, coupled with hiding a part of their identity, can elicit feelings of sadness, high stress and anxiety.

Dealing with thoughts of self-hatred and internalized homophobia can be a major setback as well. Part of this internalized homophobia stems from societal expectations and norms that tend to follow us from childhood.

The challenges that the LGBTQ+ population face can appear to be neverending for its members. For those who have chosen to live openly and authentically, some have a constant fear that they could lose their employment, face hate crimes, be subjected to emotional abuse and many other things.

Facing these obstacles is what drives LGBTQ+ youths and adults to abuse substances in an attempt to escape, cope or deal with uncomfortable feelings. Transgendered individuals are among the most vulnerable and at risk of displaying substance abuse behavior.

Alcohol, tobacco, weed, and amphetamines are among the drugs of choice for LGBTQ+ individuals. While temporary relief and escape can occur in the beginning, longterm abuse can induce more profoundly negative consequences.

Treating Addiction

One thing is for certain about addiction treatment, there is no such thing as one size fits all. When it comes to the LGBTQ+ population, special treatment centers have been set up to accommodate their specific needs.

These centers are equipped with personnel trained in treating LGBTQ+ youths and adults for particular health issues, physical and mental, that could be contributing to their substance abuse.

At these treatment facilities, members of the community do not have to be subjected to inappropriate comments, homophobic conduct or be faced with a hostile environment.

This is important because LGBTQ+ individuals must have an environment in which they feel safe to let their guard down and be able to learn healthy coping mechanisms.

Specialized treatment centers are also needed because, according to the Addiction Center, 45 percent of people with addiction have a co-occurring mental health disorder. That includes our LGBTQ+ peers.

These co-occurring mental or emotional health disorders can include depression, bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and self-harming tendencies.

What are the Next Steps?

Mental, physical, and emotional health is something that should always be taken seriously. Self-medicating can be extremely harmful to yourself and for those around you.

If yourself, a close loved one, or a peer is suffering from addiction, thoughts of self-harm or require help, here are a few resources that could be of use:

Featured image by Jernice Kelley via Canva.

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