Detox Local

LGBT Addiction Withdrawal and Detox Guide

Written By: Gary Bowers

Article Updated: 08/10/2020

People who identify as LGBT face immense pressure from an early age to be something they are not. Many people in the LGBT community will tell you that they have experienced discrimination, ignorance, bullying, violence, or trauma as a result of their sexual orientation. These challenges can often lead to substance use disorder and mental health issues. Here we will discuss some issues faced by LGBT people regarding addiction, and some resources and steps to take for LGBT sensitive recovery and detox options.

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Over The Rainbow

Sadly these issues affect the LGBT community at disproportionate rates compared to their non-LGBT peers. Isolation. Despair. Loneliness. Depression. Rejection. Fear. These feelings and emotions are unfortunately quite common in the LGBT community. LGBT people aged 12-25 are especially vulnerable. Despite improvements in removing the stigma associated with being LGBT, these problems persist.

By The Numbers - LGBT Addiction

According to SAMHSA’s 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, LGBT people are:

  • Twice as likely to use any illegal drug
  • Two times as likely to misuse prescription painkillers such as oxycodone and vicodin (2nd most abused drug behind marijuana)
  • Almost 3 times as likely to use sedatives such as GHB and benzos such as xanax (3rd most abused drug)
  • Almost 3 times as likely to use cocaine
  • Twice as likely to use amphetamines (including prescriptions and meth)
  • Three times as likely to use heroin.
  • Almost two times as likely to develop substance use disorder (SUD)
  • Less likely to seek and receive specialized treatment
  • Three times as likely to suffer from a major depressive episode

When compared to their heterosexual peers.

Additionally, LGBT individuals are “more likely to have suicidal ideation and participate in frequent heavy episodic drinking” than their non-LGBT peers.

Common Signs of Drug Abuse and Withdrawal for LGBT People

It’s important to remember that recovery is possible! Drug withdrawal can be painful, uncomfortable, dangerous, and deadly. For many, the pain of detoxing is more frightening than the pain of addiction.

So how can you tell when someone is going through withdrawal? While it’s not always easy to tell, there are some signs:

  • Missing Work, School, Social/Family Functions: Pulling away from family and friends is often one of the first signs of trouble. If you notice that someone is withdrawing from the people that are closest to them, it could be a result of substance use or withdrawal. They may have many excuses or reasons for missing events including illness, or they may simply not show when expected.
  • Risky or Frivolous Behavior: If you notice someone engaging in risky, frivolous, or otherwise uncharacteristic behavior, it could be a sign of withdrawal. When someone is going through drug withdrawal they will be more likely to do anything they can to pursue the drug including going out often, staying out late, partying excessively, etc.
  • Erratic Sleep Patterns and/or Insomnia: These symptoms can be common in withdrawal, but will be especially present during withdrawal from GHB, Adderall, and benzos. After prolonged use, the body can begin to overly-rely upon drugs for normal functions like sleeping. Removing drugs from the body can cause severe disturbances in sleep patterns. Restlessness, morning irritability, daytime drowsiness, and a lack of energy can all be signs of drug withdrawal.
  • Flu-like Illness: Withdrawal from opiates, in particular, can cause severe illness that will resemble the flu. Anyone can get sick, but if you notice a pattern of illness, otherwise unexplainable illnesses, or strange behavior accompanying the illness, it could be a sign of drug withdrawal.
  • Extreme Mood Changes: Withdrawal from drugs can be a painful experience, mentally and physically. The pain of withdrawal can often cause people to act out. This can look like many things, but commonly it would be aggression, irritability, anger, rage, psychosis, confusion, and manic episodes.
  • Anxiety and/or Depression: Similar to mood changes, these symptoms can be the result of the physical and mental toll drug withdrawal takes on the body. Depression, specifically, may not show dramatic or extreme symptoms. It could be a general lack of care or motivation, or an inability to find joy in things that used to bring happiness.

Common Withdrawal Symptoms

Co-occurring mental illness and underlying medical conditions can complicate the detoxification process. Medical detox centers can help manage withdrawal symptoms safely. Mental and physical symptoms will be treated with care. Overall, detox symptoms will vary from person to person, and from drug to drug. The intensity and severity of the symptoms are often based on the history of drug use.

Because members of the LGBT community are at a higher risk for mental illness and mood disorders, it’s important to pay close attention to someone’s behavior and take action when it appears drug withdrawal is occurring. Seeking the help of a detox center can help reduce the overall impact – physically and emotionally of withdrawal.

Here are some common withdrawal symptoms:

  • Alcohol: Alcohol withdrawal can be deadly. Always seek medical care for alcohol detox. Symptoms can include sweating, insomnia, and nausea. More serious symptoms are seizures and delirium tremens, both of which can be deadly if untreated.
  • Stimulants: Drugs like amphetamines (adderall), crystal meth, and cocaine are frequently used in the LGBT community. Withdrawal from stimulants will yield similar symptoms such as depression, insomnia, and loss of appetite. Hallmarks of crystal meth withdrawal include deep depression, anxiety, and cognitive problems.
  • Opiates: Opiates include heroin, fentanyl, and prescription pain medications. Withdrawal from opiates is extremely painful. Symptoms include increased blood pressure, nausea, cold sweats, runny nose, aches, and pains. Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are the most serious physical symptoms. These symptoms can lead to extreme dehydration and death if untreated.
  • Depressants: Sedatives like GHB and benzodiazepines (benzos) are frequently abused within the LBGT community. Withdrawal from depressants can be deadly and the symptoms can include shaking/trembling, increased blood pressure, hallucinations, and nausea.

Medical staff at drug detox centers will provide prescriptions and medical treatment for these symptoms. Proper medical care during withdrawal can dramatically improve the chances of successful recovery.

What To Look For In LGBT Detox Centers

There is good news; there are many detox centers that strive to meet the needs of the LGBT community. It’s important to know that not all treatment centers will provide the same programs and amenities. This guide will help you find the right treatment center for you.

—LGBT Specific Programs: Look for treatment facilities that offer programs that are specifically tailored to LGBT needs. For example, some programs may offer treatment tracks that are specific to gender identity AND sexual orientation (programs specifically for gay men). Other specialty programs are tailored to transexuals, women only, or LGBT young adults. Being open about your needs at this point can make a difference in the type of care you receive.

—Programs that Focus on Trauma: Sadly, many in the LGBT community will experience trauma in their lives. Sometimes this trauma is a direct result of the sexual orientation. There are treatment centers that are uniquely qualified to address this specific need.

—Dual Diagnosis Treatment: LGBT people are more likely to have a co-occurring mental illness than their non-LGBT peers. Dual diagnosis treatment can address substance abuse and mental illness together.

—Family Programs: Family programs can be extremely beneficial for LGBT people in treatment. The stigma associated with being LGBT can cause rifts in the closest of families. Addiction complicates relationships to an even greater degree. Family programs will provide an opportunity to address the complex issues LGBT people face on a daily basis.

Types of Detox Centers for LGBT People

Finding the right drug detox facility for you will be an important part of your recovery. There are different types of facilities that can be a part of your journey.

—Medical Detox: Medical detox facilities will oversee all aspects of drug and alcohol detox. Medical staff will ensure that the symptoms of withdrawal are safely managed, and may prescribe medications to continue treatment after discharge. Psychiatrists and mental health professionals will also be on-site taking care of all mental health needs, including access to therapy and medication.

—Inpatient: Inpatient detox facilities, also known as residential facilities, offer what is often referred to as “community care”, where all aspects of a patient’s stay are focused on recovery. Patients in these facilities will reside at the facility for anywhere between 7-14 days. Inpatient detox is beneficial when a break from the “outside” world is needed. Medical, mental health, and therapy needs will be addressed during the stay.

—Outpatient: Sometimes referred to as “Intensive Outpatient Treatment” or “IOP”. These programs will not feature overnight stays. All detox treatments will be offered on a specific schedule, which could last from one to two weeks depending on the patient’s needs. This works well for students or professionals who aren’t able to take the time off necessary for inpatient detox.

Additional Resources

You are not alone! No matter what the situation is, there are people and resources who are ready, willing, and able to lend a helping hand. Getting involved and learning about your community can bring you a sense of purpose and gratitude.

  • Online support communities like The Tribe are connecting people all over the world. Connection with others can be a powerful tool in fighting addiction.
  • Programs like PFLAG, The Human Rights Campaign, and The Trevor Project aren’t specific to addiction within the LGBT community, but their advocacy of LGBT rights and social issues make a difference. Being a part of an advocacy group can help you feel empowered and part of the solution.
  • The Center is a New York-based community center that fights for LBGT rights including the effect of addiction in the LGBT community.
  • LGBT-friendly 12-step Meetings are becoming more common. For example, Alcoholics Anonymous and Crystal Meth Anonymous have vibrant LGBT fellowships.

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