Addiction in the LGBT Community

LGBT Community Faces Greater Risk for Addiction

Nearly ten percent of Americans struggle with substance abuse and addiction, a statistic that is quite large compared to the rest of the world, and minorities face a greater chance of substance abuse than others. Ethnic and cultural diversity among addicts has been obvious for decades. Social norms, access to education, and socioeconomic status are significant factors that contribute to greater substance abuse in minority communities. Those who identify as lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, or transgender, especially LGBT youth, face an even greater risk for addiction, mental health problems, and suicide than those who identify as heterosexual. Why?

Like other minority communities, members of the LGBT community face “minority stress.” This term refers to hardship stemming from being socially stigmatized, set apart as different from the majority. LGBT youth are often bullied in school and shunned by their families. Adults experience judgment and instability in the workplace specific to their sexual identity and sexual preference. Although huge strides have been made for civil equality, many LGBT Americans still face daily discrimination.

Education on drug and alcohol use begins at home. When sexual identity, sexual preference, and personal expression create a wedge between family members, particularly with primary caregivers, LGBT persons lack the support and direction they need to cope and grow from an early age. The likelihood of self-medicating and involvement with social groups out of rebellion or desperation increases.

LGBT Community and the Challenges of Getting Help for an Addiction

LGBT adults face unique challenges in accessing help for addiction. Treatment professionals often lack training specific to minority needs. Residential treatment facilities are most often set up to house people based upon gender and assumed sexuality. When their sexual identity and preference fall outside of the majority norms, LGBT persons face additional social challenges that amplify the differences between themselves and others. The discrimination that they face in their greater community is replicated, even amplified, in the addiction treatment experience. LGBT individuals may be hesitant to seek professional help to overcome addiction because they may face hostility and discrimination from providers or others in recovery.

Equality in Addiction Treatment for LGBT Community

The Department of Health and Human Services and other regulatory agencies are making strides in addressing the needs of LGBT people by promoting and requiring cultural-competency training for providers and support staff, and many treatment centers and hospitals are responding with sensitivity and action. It is imperative that all people who struggle with addiction have access to recovery support regardless of sexual identity, expression, or preference. Recovery is possible for everyone. Creating equality in addiction treatment is one more step toward equality in life.

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