Did you know that alcohol and drug abuse in the LGBTQ community is around 20 to 30 percent, while only 9 percent of non-LGBTQ individuals suffer from addiction? Although there has been a massive shift in the public’s perception as well as the rights afforded the LGBTQ community, many individuals continue to suffer from discrimination and worse at work, at home, and elsewhere.
Why Is Gay Drug Abuse Higher?
Hate crimes, workplace discrimination, and marriage equality legislation have made important strides over the past ten years, but there is still a long way to go. Evidence suggests that everyday discrimination and challenges play important roles in the higher substance abuse rates of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer drug abuse, according to AmericanProgress.org.
Individuals under stress — or who suffer from anxiety, depression, or another mental health disorder such as post-traumatic stress disorder — are far more likely to use substances to cope with their symptoms. Members of the LGBTQ community are far more likely to experience high levels of daily anxiety or anger, and may be more likely to abuse drugs to cope with the treatment of themselves of a loved one.
Hard data, unfortunately, is lacking. The scientific community has not yet studied substance abuse rates at length in members of the LGBTQ community.
Suspected rates of abuse are alarming, however, with an estimated 25 percent of LGBTQ community members abusing alcohol. Cigarette tobacco rates are an astonishing 200 percent higher than in the non-LGBTQ community. LGBTQ men are at particular risk — estimates suggest they are over 12 times more likely to abuse amphetamines, and they are more than nine times more likely to use heroin than their male non-LGBTQ counterparts.
The Factors That Contribute to Addiction
There is a diverse range of factors that contribute to addiction, whether the individual in question is LGBTQ or non-LGBTQ. Many people who have addiction also have an undiagnosed or untreated disorder such as anxiety, depression, panic disorder, ADHD, or PTSD.
Using alcohol and drugs can temporarily relieve the symptoms associated with these conditions. Unfortunately, over time, using drugs and alcohol makes these disorders worse. This leads to a cycle of substance abuse that can ruin lives. Since individuals in the LGBTQ community are likely to suffer prejudice and discrimination in their daily lives, this can lead to a damaging cycle of abuse that ends in addiction.
Our healthcare system has been slow to recognize and adapt to the substance abuse effects of discrimination and prejudice in the LGBTQ community. Employment is worse — AmericanProgress.org reports it is legal in 29 states to deny work to individuals in the LGBTQ community.
Compounding the problem is targeted marketing that gives individuals in the LGBTQ community easy access to damaging substances in places where socialization is safe and encouraged — places such as bars and dance clubs. It is easy to see why managing the stress of everyday discrimination and prejudice with drugs and alcohol is often the choice many make.
Avoiding and Managing Stress in the “Real” World
Change is happening, but explaining that to someone who has just lost an employment opportunity or suffered embarrassment after hearing a slur isn’t good enough. Effective strategies for coping with stress have never been more important.
Regular exercise is a proven and potent stress-reliever. Taking a proactive stance in improving one’s life is also key, whether that is through support groups or hobbies that instill a sense of purpose. When these don’t provide adequate relief — and drinking or doing drugs is still a problem — holistic rehab can help.
Can Holistic Rehab Help?
A holistic rehab such as Clarity Way treats all aspects of addiction. This includes drug withdrawal, mental health assessment and treatment, behavioral strategies, physical strength, and spiritual growth. For more information on a rehab that welcomes gay individuals and other members of the LGBTQ community, call Clarity Way at 1-866-216-9006.