Medically Reviewed Badge
Medically Reviewed

Drug Addiction and Abuse in the LGBTQ Community

Last Updated: December 10, 2019
Drug Addiction and Abuse in the LGBTQ CommunityDrug addiction and abuse in the LGBTQ community affects thousands of people across the United States. According to a 2013 survey, sexual minorities have higher chances of developing substance abuse disorders than their heterosexual peers. In addition, a 2015 study showed that LGBTQ individuals are more than twice as likely to use illicit drugs. Those who identify themselves as members of a sexual minority are more likely to smoke cigarettes and binge drink alcohol. And the statistics on drug use and addiction in the LGBTQ community are worrisome. 39.1% of LGBTQ individuals admitted to using illicit drugs in 2015.

Why Are So Many LGBTQ Individuals Abusing Drugs?

  • Stress – Members of the LGBTQ community face high-stress situations on a day-to-day basis. While the last two decades saw significant improvements in gay rights, many LGBTQ individuals are still victims of social prejudice such as stigma, rejection, and discriminatory practices in employment. Chronic stress leads to high levels of anxiety, depression, fear, and anger, and it can increase the risk of substance abuse.  
  • Coping Mechanism – Some LGBTQ people turn to tobacco, alcohol, and drugs wrongly believing that substance abuse will help them cope with the stressful environment they’re facing. Relying on a substance to handle stress can lead to an addiction.
  • Stimulants – Some drugs, like methamphetamines or cocaine, act as stimulants. These drugs give the user more energy, increase their sexual desire, and improves their sexual performance.
  • Feel Better About Themselves – Depression is prevalent in the LGBTQ community, so some members turn to opioids or other drugs to feel good about themselves. Drugs produce a massive discharge of dopamine in the nervous system, which leads to feelings of confidence, power, and euphoria.
The high produced by the dopamine release can alter some of the neurons involved in the brain’s reward system. By altering the brain’s structure, the drugs impede the user’s ability to feel good without them. This is one of the causes of drug addiction in the LGBTQ community.

What Can You Do?

Common treatment options for substance use disorders for LGBTQ individuals include cognitive-behavioral therapy, contingency management, social support therapy, medication-assisted therapy, and motivational interviewing. Sexual minorities often have comorbid or co-occurring psychiatric disorders. This is why research suggests that rehab facilities offering specialized treatment for LGBTQ individuals can significantly improve the outcome.

Resources:

Last Updated on December 10, 2019
Share
About the reviewer:
Michael Kaliszewski, PhD
american addiction centers photo
Dr. Michael Kaliszewski is a freelance science writer with over 15 years of experience as a research scientist in both academia and industry.