About 12 million Americans from all walks of life identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or questioning (LGBTQ). These individuals experience problems with alcohol and drugs at higher rates than the rest of the population, perhaps in response to social pressures, lack of acceptance, or discrimination.
Whether you’re concerned about a friend’s or family member’s substance use or you’re evaluating your own use of drugs or alcohol, you are not alone. Reaching out for support takes strength, and seeking treatment is the first step toward recovery.
Everyone who has a substance use disorder is dealing with a unique set of challenges, but there are some common experiences among the LGBTQ community.
The process of self-identifying as LGBTQ is a unique and personal experience. For some, expressing or accepting an LGBTQ identity can be confusing, frightening, or uncomfortable. Many LGBTQ individuals may worry about the reactions of their family members, co-workers, and friends — and may experience strained relationships or even rejection. Some people may turn to drugs and alcohol to relieve the stress of various stages of the coming out process, or to cope with a negative reaction to revealing their identity.
No matter where they live or the degree of acceptance and support they receive from their friends and family, many people who identify as LGBTQ encounter homophobia and discrimination at some point in their lives. There are many ways in which this type of discrimination can make itself known. People who are uncomfortable with the LGBTQ community may distance themselves from friends or family members when they come out. Employers or co-workers who are biased against the LGBTQ community may find ways to avoid hiring or supporting career advancement for LGBTQ workers. Unfortunately, gender identity is not a federally protected class, so in some states people can be fired from their jobs for simply being a part of the LGBTQ community. In addition, some criminals target LGBTQ individuals: In 2015, more than 1,000 reported hate crimes resulted from a sexual orientation bias. Survivors of violent crimes, such as sexual assault, often experience symptoms of mental health conditions like depression and PTSD.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, for some people, coping with homophobia may be traumatic and can lead to feelings of shame or anxiety about their identity. LGBTQ individuals may use drugs or alcohol to mask unpleasant feelings or memories associated with experiencing homophobia. In addition, some people who develop a dependence on drugs or alcohol may resist seeking help, fearing that admitting to an addiction will add another minority status to their sexual or gender identity.
StartYourRecovery.org is an important resource for individuals who may be struggling with substance use disorder.
For more background, visit StartYourRecovery.org, a groundbreaking website developed by bringing together experts in substance misuse treatment from leading nonprofit, academic, and government institutions.
Through this important resource, individuals can hear stories from people with similar life experiences, discover the answers they need for recognizing and dealing with substance misuse, and locate support. You can learn more here.