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Why Queer Folks Are at Higher Risk for Substance Addiction

Substance addiction treatment is a critical topic in the Queer community. For years, several studies have found that people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning (LGBTQ+) have a significantly higher risk of substance abuse than heterosexuals.

In this blog, we’ll break down the factors that frequently contribute to these high-risk cases of addiction and how it highlights the importance of having substance addiction treatment programs designed for LGBTQ+ people.

Let’s get started!

Minority Stress: What It Means to Be Queer

According to the data compiled by Rainbow Health Ontario, the three determinants of positive mental health and well-being are social inclusion, freedom from discrimination, and violence, and access to economic resources. It is an unfortunate reality, that the majority of Queer folks do not have access to all of these if any.

On the contrary, they constantly have to deal with high levels of chronic stress, due to the inequality, social stigma, and discrimination involved in their sexual orientations or gender identities.

Because of the deep-seated anti-gay and anti-transgender prejudice that exists in societies to this day, the LGBTQ+ community constantly stresses about their safety, job security, housing rights, and acceptance by loved ones on a daily basis.

Here are some quick facts that break it down:

  • Queer people are at an incredibly high risk of being a target of hate crimes compared to other marginalized groups. In Canada, hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation more than doubled from 2007 to 2008, which were categorized as the most violent of all hate crimes.
  • Transgender folks are also among the lowest income Canadians. A study from Ontario found that half of transgender people struggle to make ends meet on an annual income of less than $15,000.
  • In Canada and the US, people who identify under the Queer umbrella report high cases of violence, harassment, and discrimination when applying for stable housing, employment, healthcare, or social services.

Queer person covered in smoke

All of these lived experiences contribute to minority stress, which is a critical aspect that powerfully illustrates the susceptibility of the LGBTQ+ community to suffer from emotional and mental health disorders, including the following:

“The trauma associated with the social stigma of being LGBTQ, of living in a culture that, for the most part, is homophobic and heterosexist, is traumatic,” Craig Sloane, LCSW, CASAC, CSAT, a psychotherapist and clinical social worker shared with Healthline in an interview.

“From the experiences of being bullied and being rejected by friends and family, those traumas unfortunately still were true in 2019. In many parts of the country, the safe spaces for queer people to go are bars, so social isolation certainly is one of the factors behind substance use disorders for LGBTQ people,” he continued.

Top 5 Substance Most Abused Within the LGBTQ+

Tobacco, alcohol, drugs

Sloane’s statement on how queer folks consider bars as a safe space where they are socially accepted reinforces our theory that they resort to an addictive substance to self-medicate and help themselves cope with their predicament.

Based on the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, a staggering 18.7 million people age 18 or older admitted to having a substance use disorder in the United States. A massive portion of this population are members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Let’s take a look at the most common types of addictive substances they use:

1. Tobacco

Gay and transgender individuals use tobacco up to 200 percent more than those who identify as heterosexual. Smoking includes the use of nicotine-based products, such as chew, cigs, dip, smokes, and snuff. Vaping devices that contain nicotine or other equally addictive chemicals like e09s, E-vaporizer, and E-cigarettes also fall into this category.

2. Alcohol

Excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages that often pave the way for alcoholism is also rampant among queer folks. The report revealed between 20 and 25 percent of the LGBTQ+ community have moderate to severe alcohol dependency.

3. Marijuana

Marijuana refers to the dried leaves, flowers, stems, and seeds from the hemp plant, Cannabis sativa. It carries the chemical delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and other related compounds, which can produce mind-altering effects or cause people to get “high.” Transgender males are 3.5 times more likely to use marijuana than straight males.

4. Amphetamines

Amphetamines like Adderall are prescription medications used to treat symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Despite its potential effectiveness in addressing medical conditions, it is a mind stimulant that can be highly addictive and abused. Survey results suggest that the LGBTQ+ community is 12.2 times more likely to use amphetamines.

5. Heroin

Colloquially know as Big H, horse, hell dust, or smack, heroin is an opioid drug produced from morphine. It is a naturally addictive substance sourced from the seed pod of opium poppy plants propagated in Southeast and Southwest Asia, Mexico, and Colombia. LGBTQ+ people are said to be 9.5 times more likely to use heroin than heterosexual individuals.

Limited Substance Addiction Treatment Centers for LGBTQ+ People

When they decide to get help, queer people should get a specially tailored substance addiction treatment plan designed to meet their unique set of requirements. Unfortunately, traditional treatment facilities fall short in this matter.

A national study published on PubMed found that out of the 854 treatment providers that claimed they have specialized approaches for members of the LGBTQ+ community, only 64 confirmed that they offered the said service when the researchers followed up through a telephone call.

This means that there is a scarcity of available providers for queer individuals once they decide to seek professional help on substance addiction treatment finally. To begin with, they are already reluctant to get into rehab or even divulge the information about their gender identity out of fear of going through the same ordeal of hostility prejudice-causing minority stress from homophobic healthcare providers.

Substance Addiction Treatment for the LGBTQ+ Community

If you or someone you know is struggling to overcome a substance use disorder, contact Freedom From Addiction today. We provide a wide range of comprehensive substance addiction treatment programs, individualized to each and every client.

Our staff works to ensure that our facility is welcoming to people of all backgrounds, including those of the LGBTQ+ community. For detailed information on how we can help, ask our therapists today!


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