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Overview of LGBT Addiction Guide

It’s only relatively recently that we’ve begun to understand the true nature of addiction. Many years ago, the consensus was that people with substance abuse problems were bad people, willfully choosing not to exercise any self-control and lacking any sort of relationship with God or whatever higher power in which they believe. As a result, people who would be given medical and medicinal treatment today were punished, relegated to prisons and insane asylums as a means of forcing them into sobriety. The belief was that sending addicts to prison or otherwise would force them to be sober while the fear of further persecution would discourage them from any additional substance abuse.

>20% Of LGBT community member abuse substances
12.2x More likely for LGBT men to abuse amphetamines
25% Of LGBT community members abuse alcohol

Fortunately, we have a much better, more enlightened understanding of addiction today. Instead of a moral affliction, we know that alcoholism and drug addiction represent a chronic, progressive disease of the brain, causing people to behave in ways that are self-destructive and in direct opposition to what’s in their best interests. Moreover, it’s a disease that affects the entire demographic spectrum. Men and women of all racial and ethnic backgrounds, socioeconomic levels, and religions can succumb to this potentially lethal disease. In fact, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) refers to current rates of addiction as an “epidemic” with approximately one in every ten American adults being addicted to alcohol or drugs, which is why addiction has become such a prominent topic of discussion in our society.

In particular, there’s been a major focus on rates of alcohol and drug abuse among certain demographics. For instance, gender differences in substance abuse has been a topic of significant discussion. But at present, let’s discuss alcohol and drug addiction in the LGBT community.

What Substances Pose the Greatest Threat to LGBT Individuals?

A prominent aspect of the lives of many individuals in the LGBT community is nightlife. Since being around other LGBT individuals is one of the few ways they can protect themselves from harassment, it’s common for LGBT individuals to frequent bars and clubs, especially so-called “gay bars”, where they will drink alcohol. However, in addition to alcohol it’s been suggested that the LGBT community abuses stimulants, particularly amphetamines like crystal meth, at much higher-than-average rates. Part of the reason for this elevated stimulant use is likely as offset the effects of alcohol, which means that they can extend their evenings and nights while running on very minimal amounts of sleep due to the energy they get from the stimulants.

Other popular substances in the LGBT community include other so-called “club drugs”, including things like ecstasy, MDMA, and GHB; these are substances that are almost more psychedelic or hallucinogenic in nature, offering distorted perceptions and tactile sensations that lend themselves to nightlife environments. Much like the rest of the country, there are also a number of LGBT individuals who are or who are becoming addicted to opioids like heroin and prescription painkillers.

Is Addiction Really a Problem in the LGBT Community?

Historically speaking, now is a great time for the LGBT community. With same-sex marriage now legal nationwide, we live in the most progressive period of time in our country’s history, which, admittedly, is much shorter than many European countries. But that’s not to say that individuals who consider themselves lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or genderqueer don’t face any adversity today. In reality, the LGBT community continues to be discriminated against despite the increase in support and federal legalization of same-sex marriage.

"According to the findings, there are significantly higher rates of alcohol and drug abuse, and addiction as well, among individuals who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and gender-queer."

Recently, there have been a number of studies to take a closer look at the LGBT community, particularly with regard to substance abuse. According to the findings, there are significantly higher rates of alcohol and drug abuse, and addiction as well, among individuals who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and genderqueer. The exact figures fluctuate since it’s difficult to get a sample that’s truly representative of the LGBT community as a whole, but statistics show that alcohol and drug addiction in the LGBT community is between two and four times the national average. In particular, gay, bisexual, and transgender men exhibit rates of addiction that are exponentially higher than the national average as well as the rate at which female members of the LGBT community abuse and become addicted to alcohol and drugs.

Sexual Minorities and the Minority Stress Model

The popular belief is that the “LGBT culture” itself is the cause for such elevated rates of alcohol abuse and addiction. People tend to associate LGBT culture with bars, clubs, raves, and heavy partying, which many attribute to being the actual source of the elevated substance abuse rates in the LGBT community. However, surveys indicate that LGBT individuals frequent these bars and clubs because they feel welcome and accepted at these places, which is in stark contrast to what they experience as part of society at large.

By definition, a minority group refers to a group of people who are differentiated in some way from the social majority. More often than not, a minority group is distinguished by some type of observable characteristic or characteristics, including race or ethnicity, gender, religion, age, and sexual orientation. With regard to the latter, minority groups that are distinguished based on sexual orientation — in other words, groups of individuals who identify as anything other than homosexual — are called sexual minorities.

A very compelling social theory that has been reported lately has to do with a concept called the minority stress model. According to this model, the stress incurred by minorities groups as a direct result of the discrimination, harassment, and persecution they experience at the hand of their own societies causes distress that compromises their physical, mental, and emotional well-being. With regard to addiction, this would mean that the main reason LGBT individuals exhibit higher rates of addiction than the national average is not because of their affinity for nightlife — which is actually their way of finding other LGBT individuals who can understand and will accept them — but rather as a consequence of growing up and living in a hostile, judgemental, and homophobic society.

Is Addiction Really a Problem in the LGBT Community?

It’s a sad state of affairs when the LGBT community can get the right to marry whomever they please, but they’re still harassed and mistreated by many people in their own culture. For being such a progressive period in history, there’s still a lot of intolerance. Fortunately, there are many addiction treatment programs available for LGBT addicts located across the U.S. These programs address many of the problems that many LGBT individuals have, including self-loathing, dealing with discrimination and harassment.

"It’s estimated that more than half of all gay men — 55 percent — struggle with some form of drug addiction."

In short, these LGBT addiction treatment programs want to build these individuals up so that they’re better able to remain sober without resorting to substance abuse to cope with discrimination. Individuals in LGBT recovery programs receive extensive counseling and psychotherapy, participate in a number of group sessions, and are taught useful strategies for relapse prevention that are intended to help fortify their sobriety and teach them to be stronger, more resilient individuals.

  • According to studies, LGBT youths are three times as likely to develop alcohol and drug addictions at some point in their lives than their heterosexual peers.
  • The low self-esteem and self-loathing that comes from not being accepted by one’s family members, close friends, and peers is one of the most significant contributors to LGBT addiction.
  • The majority of LGBT individuals have experienced verbal, physical, or sexual abuse at some point in their lives; this is another major contributor to addiction in the LGBT community.
  • Although estimates vary, current studies suggest that between 20 and 30 percent of the entire LGBT community is suffering from some type of addiction; however, it’s possible for this figure to even higher.