Happy Pride Month! Each June we recognize and celebrate love in all its shades, encourage living in one’s truth, and fight back against intolerance and harmful stigmas. Established in 2000 then amended in 2009, Pride Month is intended to be a month long celebration of inclusivity in love. Unfortunately for many LGBTQ+ people, acceptance and and support doesn’t come easy. Despite how far society has come, closed-mindedness and antiquated laws continue to impact the lives of millions of Americans.
One such challenge is the permeation of substance abuse within the LGBTQ+ community. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, non-heterosexual people are more than twice as likely to abuse illicit substances as their heterosexual counterparts. Opioid abuse is especially troublesome among adults who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or other sexual minority. Driven by a multitude of contributing factors including internalized struggles with self-acceptance, social attitudes and oppression, self-esteem and self-image issues, substance abuse disorders within the LGBTQ+ community are a raising issue that must be addressed.
The Risks of Substance Abuse in the LGBTQ+ Community
Understanding the correlation between one’s sexual identity and susceptibility to addiction is important to addressing the epidemic and ending the shame associated with substance abuse. Social stigmas and discrimination have far-reaching consequences for millions in the United States. In 31 states, LGBTQ+ people are still unprotected against discrimination based on gender or sexual identity. 28 transgender people were murdered in 2017 in violent hate crimes. As of May of this year a further 11 have been lost senselessly. More than 40 percent of homeless people including homeless youths identify as a sexual minority. Fear of family rejection, threat of violence or homelessness and other consequences keep many more hidden and repressed.
For LGBTQ+ people struggling to live their truth, the allure of drugs and alcohol as a reprieve from the stress and fears associated with social judgements can be tempting. Illicit substances may quiet anxieties and emotional distress; lowered inhibitions can bolster confidence and lead to situations which otherwise would never occur. These combined effects can quickly lead down a slippery slope into a dangerous cycle of substance abuse.
Substance abuse in the LGBTQ+ community increases the risks for:
- Sexual abuse
- Sexually transmitted diseases/ infections
- Increase risk of infection via needle sharing
- Domestic violence
- Emotionally and mentally abusive relationships
- Date rape
LGBTQ+ Informed Treatment for Addiction
The recovery journey is a deeply personal mental and emotional transformation which focuses uncovering and addressing the roots of substance abuse. While there are common threads for many living with addiction, people in the LBGTQ+ community may face unique challenges requires specific attention. LGBTQ-informed treatment is designed with these issues in mind to help one overcome these obstacles for long-term success in recovery.
When the roots of addiction lie in one’s sexual identity, its important to explore this aspect of your life carefully and under the proper guidance and care. LGBTQ-informed treatment explores mental and emotional complexities that may surround one’s sexual identity and self-affirmation. When one’s sexuality is repressed or a source of shame or confusion, getting to a place of self-acceptance is a journey of its own. When integrated into other aspects of treatment throughout the full continuum of care, LGBTQ-informed treatment helps to restore one to a place where one can build a better future.