There are many reasons why an individual might turn to substance abuse. Although research has indicated there are a number of biological, environmental, and behavioral factors that can make individuals especially susceptible to developing addiction, the fact of the matter is that the precursor to addiction is often the tendency that many individuals have to self-medicate themselves, responding to the stress and anxiety experienced on a daily basis by numbing the self via substance abuse. As individuals continue to use mind-altering substances as a means of coping, substance abuse gives way to physical, even psychological dependence on alcohol and drugs, leaving these individuals in need of rehabilitative treatment for addiction.
Of all the individuals who experience abnormally high-stress levels that could lead to alcohol and drug abuse, it’s members of the lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender (LGBT) community that may be at a significantly higher risk and, therefore, more susceptible to substance abuse disorders and addiction. There have been numerous studies conducted on members of the LGBT community, especially individuals who self-identify as gay, in order to determine whether there is tends to be significantly more alcohol and drugs addiction among these individuals than the population at large. Research—including a study involving self-identifying gay youths—has confirmed that the LGBT community tends to suffer from dependency and addiction at much higher-than-average rates. This alarming reality begs an important question: What exactly is being done about this?
The Effects of Discrimination on the LGBT Community
In the past decade alone, views of and attitudes toward the all-encompassing LGBT community—a common blanket expression used to refer to those of us who identify themselves as homosexual, bisexual, or transgender—have changed dramatically. Perhaps a more appropriate description would be to call it progresses; the LGBT community is facing less and less discrimination and more acceptance than ever before.
However, despite the current evolutionary progress in attitudes toward homosexuality and its derivatives, the sad reality is that members of this ever-present community still face a lot of discrimination today. This discrimination takes a vast number of forms, more than anyone outside of the LGBT community—even its stanchest outsider allies—can imagine. According to an article by the Center for American Progress, as much as 43 percent of gay and an alarming 90 percent of transgender individuals have discriminated against and even harassed while on the job. In addition to workplace discrimination, members of the LGBT community frequently experience things like not having their relationships recognized or acknowledged, difficulty in claiming inheritance in the event of a partner’s death, often experience problems related to health insurance and medical care, and even housing discrimination, making it harder to find and secure a place to live. It’s the views of society that are imposed on members of the LGBT community in the form of discrimination and harassment that cause these individuals to use substance abuse as a means of coping, effectively pushing them into dependency and addiction.
The Minority Stress Model
Due to the high level of remaining discrimination that homosexual, bisexual, and genderqueer individuals face, many have expressed concern about the effect and health risks that are posed to these and any other sexual minorities. Researchers who have been studying the outcomes of the unique stressors experienced by members of the LGBT community refer to this theoretical and explanatory framework as the Minority Stress Model. Proponents of this model assert that the health disparities, such as addiction and dependency, experienced by sexual minorities have largely been induced by the stress that stems from a hostile, homophobic culture and the resultant discrimination, harassment, maltreatment, and victimization. This particular stress is referred to as minority stress.
Elevated Rates of Addiction Among Sexual Minorities
We’ve already know that minority stress has resulted in elevated rates of physical and mental health problems for lesbian, gay, and transgender individuals. However, recent research has sought to identify whether there are markedly higher rates of addiction in the LGBT community and to determine if there’s a source for the problem. The results of these studies have been enlightening as well as disturbing. In general, the higher rates of substance abuse and addiction among sexual minorities is widely attributed to experiences of victimization, harassment, and homophobia. Rates of addiction among the general population are estimated at 9 percent, which is significantly lower than estimates of 20 to 30 percent for the LGBT community. Additionally, it’s been estimated that more than half of gay men will experience chemical dependency or addiction over the course of their lives. Statistics also suggest that gay men are 3.5 times more likely to use marijuana, an astounding 9.5 times more likely to use heroin, and 12.2 times more likely to use amphetamines than heterosexual men.
There have also been a number of studies that have looked at substance abuse among lesbian, gay, and genderqueer adolescents and teens, showing even higher rates of substance abuse and dependency than LGBT adults. Teenage sexual minorities have been found to be 200 percent more likely to experiment with alcohol and drugs while 3 percent of LGTBQ teens have expressed feeling like their sexual orientation makes them feel unsafe at school. Perhaps most telling of all, LGBT teens are reportedly 2 to 3 times more likely to attempt suicide than heterosexual teens with as many as 1 in 3 lesbian and gay youths having already attempted suicide.
How Can We Solve the Problem of Higher Addiction Rates Among Lesbian, Gay, and Transgender Individuals?
Although society has slowly become more tolerant, there is still much discrimination faced by members of the LGBT community today. In addition to higher rates of addiction, the numerous other health effects caused by stress on sexual minorities requires our immediate intervention. Discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and genderqueer individuals has started to abate due to the teaching and encouragement of tolerance in society. We must continue to spread tolerance of minorities, sexual and other, with continued education. Meantime, the damage caused to sexual minorities must be addressed.
Addiction recovery programs have been instrumental in the recovery of countless individuals who had suffered from active addiction, many of whom had likely thought that recovery was impossible. It’s essential to offer recovery programs that are intended specifically for members of the LGBT community so that lesbian, gay, and transgender individuals can benefit from a program that’s optimized for achieving sobriety and can help these individuals to learn a number of healthier ways to cope with discrimination, harassment, and victimization due to homophobia. In fact, LGBT recovery programs often teach coping strategies that are specific to the problems faced by members of sexual minority communities. Addiction treatment programs that are tailored for sexual minorities are conducive for recovery because they provide a safe, discrimination-free environment in which members of the LGBT community can become sober while they learn to utilize coping strategies that will fortify their recovery.
If you or someone you love is a member of the LGBT community and in need of an effective rehabilitation program, Ocean Breeze Recovery is here to help. Our recovery specialists have helped countless addicts navigate their way back to a life of health, sobriety, and fulfillment. Don’t wait—call us today so we can discuss your treatment options.