Drug Abuse in the LGBTQ Community
Increased substance use within the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) community has been a major problem for decades. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 39.1% of the LGBTQ community have used some sort of illicit drug within the past year. In comparison, 17.1% of heterosexual adults were reported abusing these same drugs.
Why is it that we see higher rates of substance use in this population than in others?
Members in the LGBTQ community have faced prejudice every day of their lives, and continue to face harassment, discrimination, neglect, and opposition to this day simply because of their sexual orientation and gender identity. These devastating effects are long-lasting, and often lead to harmful and destructive behavior.
Drug and alcohol culture in the LGBTQ community is extremely prevalent, and for a reason. Gay clubs haven proven to be a refuge for members in the community for centuries. Clubs and other gathering places that catered specifically to LGBTQ members have been around since as early as the 17th century. To this day, these clubs provide members with a safe-space to socialize, meet others, and have fun without fear of harassment or unacceptance.
Many in the LGBTQ community credit gay clubs as the only place where they could truly be free, happy, and accepted growing up. Many consider the gay bar their home, a place where they feel 100% accepted, safe, and understood. While gay clubs are so important for this very reason, they also promote increased alcohol and substance use amongst its visitors.
Although all nightclubs in general promote heavy drinking due to the abundance of alcohol available, gay clubs in particular are especially prone to this increased drinking and substance use because it provides additional relief for those wanting to escape the constant state of loneliness and isolation. Some members believe the only way to feel comfortable is to lower their inhibitions by using drugs and/or alcohol, which often leads to a viscous cycle of dependence and/or addiction.
An Explanation for LGBTQ Drug Abuse
As mentioned, there is much stigma within our society towards the LGBTQ community. The result of such stigma and ignorance perpetuates bullying, harassment, teasing, and physical assault, mainly during the adolescent years. According to a survey done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 40% of the youth’s homeless population claims to be a part of the LGBTQ community.
Without the support of loved ones and being left to survive on their own, it’s fairly understandable why many in the LGBTQ community seek out illicit substances as a way to deal with the stress and loneliness brought upon by nothing other than their sexual orientation and gender identity.
LGBTQ discrimination happens everywhere, and usually individuals begin to feel this discrimination and harassment at school. Bullying is a major problem in our country in general, but young LGBTQ individuals are heavily subjected to this demeaning and emotionally abusive behavior. LGBTQ students are also ignored by their peers and segregated from the rest of their peers. It isn’t uncommon for LGBTQ individuals to find relief in drugs and alcohol, especially at a young age.
There’s also the situation known as internalized homophobia. This is the occurrence of a member of the LGBTQ accepting the stigma released by society and figuring that it’s a part of their identity to be discriminated against. This sort of behavior is extremely unhealthy and leads to self-loathing and isolation. With that in mind, it isn’t surprising that many people will turn to drugs and alcohol as a means of accepting this stigma.
It can be concluded that many of those within the LGBTQ community abuse alcohol and drugs as a means to accept who they are as individuals. This isn’t uncommon with those suffering from drug use issues and more often than not, these individuals feel as though they do not deserve happiness or a healthy life.
Oppositions the Community Faces
The range of challenges the LGBTQ community faces is vast. The prejudice they feel not only increases their chance of dependence on illicit substances, it also increases their chances of developing co-occurring disorders such as depression, anxiety, insomnia, PTSD, and bipolar disorder.
Co-occurring disorders are common when it comes to addiction, but being that the LGBTQ community has already felt a divide between themselves and the rest of society, these co-occurring disorders are even more rampant.
There are plenty of instances where individuals suffering from mental health issues will seek out a doctor’s prescription to cope, only to find themselves addicted to whatever medication is prescribed or using alcohol and/or illicit substances in conjunction with their treatment.
Another issue is the case of heterosexism and transphobia. This is when a non-LGBTQ either denies or stigmatize behavior. Many religions can be thought of as heterosexist and transphobic. As we talk about in Alcoholics Anonymous, a Higher Power is necessary in order to feel fulfillment and purpose in life. Many see a Higher Power as religious, and when that religion is stating that the LGBTQ individual’s way of life is wrong, this often leads to them feeling a sense of shame or the inability to accept who they are. A Higher Power is not necessarily religious, but the seemingly religious undertones displayed in AA often steer people away from it, especially those within the LGBTQ community who have grown up being told that being gay is wrong in the eyes of God.
A Brighter Future
Luckily, there is data showing that societal acceptance of the LGBTQ community is heading in a positive direction. Though time will slowly progress this movement, there’s definitely an advancement in social acceptance and support. With this, the hope is that the rates of alcohol and/or drug use in the LGBTQ population will drop. Given how long this will take and through what future battles is still in question.
Although LGBTQ discrimination and prejudice are still extremely present in society today, there’s the assumption that over time much of this stigma will dissipate and acceptance will be the new norm.
Stonewall Institute Treatment Center’s mission has always been to provide a safe-space for everybody in the LGBTQ population facing issues of alcohol and/or substance use. Finding trustworthy and accepting healthcare and treatment options can be difficult, but our focus is to assure safety, comfort, and acceptance to all people, especially to those in the LGBTQ community, all while receiving exceptional addiction treatment care.
Our dedication and service to the LGBTQ community has not gone unnoticed. In December 2016, our CEO and founder Kyle J. Penniman, MSW, LISAC was presented with the Spirit Recognition award by Sierra Tucson, one of the most prestigious and well-known substance abuse treatment centers in the United States, for his incredible contributions to the LGBTQ community. Helping those suffering from chemical dependency and providing a safe space for all has led to outstanding success of Stonewall Institute and has changed thousands of lives for the better.
We understand your struggle, we understand your challenges. We understand how it feels to experience completely isolated because of something you cannot change, and we understand how difficult it is to reach out for help. At Stonewall Institute Treatment Center, you will be received with positivity, affirmation, professionalism, and compassion.
If you or anyone you love is a member of the LGBTQ community and worried about seeking addiction treatment due to judgment or prejudice, contact Stonewall Institute Treatment Center today at 602-535-6468 or email us at email@example.com. You are not alone.
Posted by Stonewall Institute Treatment Center on Tuesday, September 26th, 2017 @ 8:15PM
Categories: Drug Treatment Arizona
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