LGBTQ+ Guide for Addiction Treatment
Table of contents
What Does LGBTQ+ Mean?
The LGBTQ+ community experiences substance use disorder and mental illness rates significantly higher than the general population, and most never receive treatment. No one cause creates this disparity, but most researchers agree that the unique challenges that LGBTQ+ people experience can contribute significantly to substance use.
Fortunately, there’s hope with LGBTQ+ addiction treatment centers, which can offer significantly greater chances of recovery for LGBTQ+ people compared to treatment as usual.
A Better Understanding of LGBTQ+
What Are the SUD Rates for the LGBTQ+ Community?
Of those 2.6 million, 64.6% struggled with alcohol, 51.6% struggled with illicit drug use, and 16.2% struggled with both alcohol and illicit drugs. In addition, over 70% had co-occurring mental illness alongside a substance use disorder. Lastly, people in the LGBTQ+ community with substance use disorders often enter treatment with more severe problems.
What Substances Are Most Abused in the LGBTQ+ Community?
Your sexual preferences, gender identity, or gender expression don’t dictate substance use, but certain subcultures within the community can promote specific drugs over others. The most common substances of abuse in LGBTQ communities are as follows, with percentages and reported use in the last year listed from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health:1
2. Marijuana: 43.6%, 6.3 million
3. Pharmaceutical drugs: 16.1%, 2.3 million
4. Hallucinogens: 8.4%, 1.2 million
5. Cocaine: 7.4%, 1.0 million
6. Inhalants: 4.3%, 623 thousand
7. Methamphetamines: 2.9%, 411 thousand
8. Heroin: 1.0%, 141 thousand
Alcohol and marijuana are clearly at the forefront of substance use, likely because of their legal status and general social acceptance. Pharmaceutical drugs, like prescription opioids or benzodiazepines, follow close behind, with stimulants and heroin use coming in near the bottom of the list.
How Do Addiction Rates Compare to Other Groups?
What Factors Underlie the SUD Rates?
A Further Look at Addiction in the LGBTQ+ Community
LGBTQ+ Community Experiences Mental Health Issues at Higher Rates
The LGBTQ+ community also has significantly higher rates of mental illness. Depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, and post-traumatic stress disorder are the leading causes of mental health issues for LGBTQ+ people.
What Are the Rates?
Why Are They So High?
Challenges the LGBTQ+ Community Faces
Discrimination, stigma, and abuse are saddeningly common challenges for the LGBTQ+ community. Facing such persistent challenges can contribute to the development of mental illness, substance use disorder, or both.
Discrimination can take place at work, school, or in public spaces. It can also prevent the LGBTQ+ community from receiving essential services, such as addiction treatment or the ability to buy or rent a home. This might account for the “treatment gap” outlined in the National Survey of Drug Use and Health findings that 86.4% of people in the LGBTQ+ community with substance use disorder never receive treatment.1
Stigma is a close relative of discrimination. Whereas discrimination affects the way people treat you, stigma affects their perceptions. This can cause significant undue stress without a clear cause since people with a stigma against the LGBTQ+ community can veil their prejudice.
How Heterosexism Affects Substance Use
Co-Occurring Disorders in LGBTQ+ Populations
A Discussion on Stigma in the LGBTQ+ Community
Addiction Treatment Options
Inpatient Addiction Treatment
Inpatient treatment usually consists of a 30-day, 60-day, or 90-day stay at a treatment facility away from home. While attending inpatient LGBTQ+ addiction treatment, you will participate in several classes and groups each day designed to help you understand and overcome your substance use disorder.
Outpatient Addiction Treatment
Outpatient treatment is an excellent first-line treatment option, but people leaving inpatient treatment can also benefit from continuing with an outpatient program. Outpatient LGBTQ+ addiction treatment usually takes place near where you live. You don’t need to uproot your whole life to seek treatment.