For anyone who abuses drugs or alcohol, addiction is a serious threat. But for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, the risks of chemical dependence and addiction are even greater than in the rest of the population. At the same time, finding addiction specialists and rehab centers that understand the needs of the LGBT community can be challenging. Whether you’re part of this community or you care about someone who’s a part of this group, specialized rehab programs are available for those who seek help finding a path to recovery.
Drug Use in the LGBT Community
The disease of addiction affects people of all sexual orientations from all walks of life. However, statistics show that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals face a higher risk of abusing drugs or alcohol and becoming addicted to these substances. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people in the LGBT community are more likely to suffer from addiction and to maintain abstinence from drugs. They are also more likely to continue using drugs as they grow older.
What makes LGBT people more vulnerable to drug addiction? A few of the possible reasons include:
- The need to numb the pain caused by homophobia
- Reactions to public discrimination
- Trauma caused by hate crimes and violence
- A need for self-acceptance in social settings
- Alcohol advertising that targets the gay community
At gay clubs and bars, drug use has been part of the culture for many years. The Pride Institute notes that club drugs like Ecstasy, ketamine and GHB have been widely used by gay and bisexual men at raves, circuit parties and concerts. These designer drugs promote a sense of closeness to others, reduce inhibitions and enhance libido — all of which make them appealing in the party scene. Marijuana, stimulants like cocaine and meth, and alcohol are also common drugs of abuse among LGBT individuals.
Substance Abuse and Addiction Risks
It’s impossible to overestimate the destructive effects of drug addiction on the LGBT community. Intravenous drug abuse has contributed to the increase in blood-borne diseases like HIV/AIDS and hepatitis. People who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol are also more likely to engage in unprotected sex with unknown partners.
Alcoholism has taken a toll on LGBT individuals. This widely available drug promotes depression, suicidal thoughts, accidental injuries and violence. Heavy drinking impairs judgment, contributes to heart and liver disease and exposes the drinker to the risk of altercations and incarceration.
For LGBT teens who are in the process of defining their sexual identity, the risk of substance abuse is especially acute. According to the National Association of Lesbian and Gay Addiction Professionals, the following factors make adolescents vulnerable to addiction:
- Low self-esteem
- Lack of support from family or community
- Few positive role models
- Mental health disorders like depression or anxiety
- A lack of positive ways to view their sexuality
Drug rehabilitation for LGBT adults and teens must focus on the issues that promote addiction in this population, such as homophobia, cultural influences, and barriers to self-acceptance.
Recovery Resources for LGBT
Widespread efforts to promote sobriety can strengthen the individual as well as the LBGT community. Specialized recovery services for LGBT people include:
- Individual counseling with therapists who have experience and training in working with LGBT clients
- Therapeutic models that promote self-acceptance and self-esteem
- Couples and family counseling for partners, spouses and family members
- Self-help groups and 12-step meetings tailored to the needs of LGBT individuals
Our addiction professionals at Axis welcome diversity in our clientele and in our staff. Our individually designed recovery programs are developed to support your unique needs. If you’re battling the disease of drug addiction, we’re here to give you the tools you need to create the healthy, sober life you deserve.