How Substance Use and Co-occurring disorders are affecting the LGBTQIA+ community

Substance addiction is a disease that does not discriminate, affecting all genders from all backgrounds. According to a 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, in the United States, about 18.7 million people age 18 or older had a substance use disorder (SUD). But for a smaller minority of the population who identify as part of the LGBTQIA+ community, they are almost two to three times as likely to suffer from a serious alcohol or substance use disorder compared to their heterosexual counterparts. According to SAMHSA, substance use disorders affect an estimated 20-30% of the LGBTQIA+ community compared to an estimated 8.4% of the general population. Are members of this underrepresented population facing more discrimination, at a higher risk of developing a substance addiction and not receiving the behavioral health care they need? 

A group of multiracial adults with substance use disorders and co-occurring mental health conditions holding a rainbow flag to represent the LGBTQIA+ community

Discrimination in the health care field for members of the LGBTQIA+ community has long been an issue when it comes to finding and receiving substance use disorder treatment. These individuals often find it difficult to locate providers who offer respectful care for medical issues that are unrelated to their gender identity. This in turn discourages these members from seeking out care or enrolling in health care coverage, leaving them at higher risks for preventable and treatable conditions such as cancer, mental health conditions and substance use disorders. 

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Past studies have shown members of the LGBTQIA+ community have higher rates of binge drinking, have higher rates of marijuana usage, and have higher rates of developing mental health issues. Young people are especially vulnerable as they try to navigate accepting their own identity and oftentimes turn to drugs and alcohol due to social pressures and social acceptance. Because this group is so “socially stigmatized,” they began finding safe spaces in the underground nightlife where drugs and alcohol are naturally present. At one point, overdosing on the dance floor was not an uncommon occurrence to see in gay bars and clubs. 

Some of the major factors that lead to a higher number of substance abuse related issues include discrimination, internalized homophobia, shame, harassment and trauma. LGBTQIA+ individuals are also more likely to experience violence and victimization. These factors are big contributors to and sometimes the catalyst to the development of co-occurring mental health disorders, which ultimately leads to individuals seeking substance and alcohol use as a form of self-medication. It is often the only way they are able to self-soothe, self-manage and cope with distressing emotions. LGBTQIA+ individuals enter into substance abuse treatment programs with more severe cases of substance addictions in addition to a multitude of co-occurring mental health conditions including depression and anxiety. 

Reach out to Hotel California by the Sea

We specialize in treating addiction and other co-occurring disorders, such as PTSD. Our Admissions specialists are available to walk you through the best options for treating your addiction.

Addiction treatment programs such as Hotel California by the Sea, that offer specialized targeted treatments have been proven more highly effective for treating LGBTQIA+ individuals in comparison to non-specialized programs. Through various options for treatment care including detox, residential, outpatient and specialized behavioral therapies such as EMDR therapy, anyone can recover from a substance use disorder. Hotel California by the Sea’s individualized care plans are created to meet the unique challenges each patient may face during addiction treatment and on their journey to recovery.