Substance Misuse and Addiction in the LGBTQ+ Community

June 2021 was declared Pride Month by President Biden. During Pride, we commemorate the Stonewall Uprising of 1969 and celebrate the progress made since then. But while there have been significant advances for people that identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, or Queer/Questioning (LGBTQ) in the decades since, there are still many hurdles to overcome.

For one, addiction–and the lack of access to specialized treatment–remains a significant problem in the LGBTQ community.

According to recent research, lesbian, gay, and bisexual people are around twice as likely to use illicit drugs and suffer from substance use disorder (SUD) when compared with heterosexual people. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that transgender people were more than 3 times as likely to suffer from addiction than cisgender people.

There are many factors that contribute to addiction among members of the LGBTQ community. These include:

  • Discrimination. It is common for individuals that identify under the LGBTQ+ umbrella to experience discrimination at some point in their lives, whether it is at work, school, church, or in their own family. This may lead some people to misuse drugs or alcohol.
  • Social stigma. Society is increasingly becoming more accepting of sexual minorities and identities. However, there is still a level of stigma just for being themselves, which may cause people to seek the escape provided by drugs or alcohol.
  • Internalized homophobia. Sometimes the social stigma can influence the way someone feels about themselves and lead them to misuse drugs or alcohol.
  • Co-occurring disorders. People with SUD frequently have other mental health problems and members of the LGBTQ community suffer depression, anxiety disorders, and other psychiatric problems at a higher rate than cisgender, heterosexual people.

The prevalence of addiction in the LGBTQ+ community highlights the need for more specialized treatment programs. In a non-specialized program, sexual minorities are more likely to experience judgement from other patients or even from staff. They may also be ill-equipped to address the specific needs of members of the LGBTQ+ community, such as coping with social isolation, family problems, and discrimination. According to a 2010 study, gay and bisexual men fared much better in specialized programs, yet only 7.4% of treatment centers provided these kinds of programs.

LGBTQ+ Treatment Track at River Oaks

River Oaks Treatment Center in Florida has a specialized track for LGBTQ+ individuals that encompasses:

  • Medical detox.
  • Inpatient rehab.
  • Residential treatment.
  • Partial hospitalization (day treatment).
  • Intensive outpatient services.

River Oaks is also equipped to treat co-occurring disorders, which greatly increases the likelihood for rehabilitation treatment to be successful in the long term. Research shows that a comprehensive program that treats addiction and other disorders simultaneously is much more effective than treating one at a time.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, consider reaching out to an admissions navigator at . They can answer questions about the program at River Oaks and help you understand your insurance coverage as it applies to addiction treatment.

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