Medically Reviewed

Substance Misuse and the LGBTQ+ Community

1 min read · 5 sections
Evidence-Based Care
Expert Staff

Substance misuse is a significant problem among members of the LGBTQ+ community. From alcohol misuse and binge drinking to the use of substances like methamphetamines, heroin, and opioids, many people in the sexual minority struggle with addiction.

Statistics show that LGBTQ adults are more than twice as likely as their heterosexual counterparts to use illicit drugs and almost twice as likely to suffer from a substance use disorder.1

Why? There are a number of factors that may contribute to this statistic, including: 

Discrimination and Social Stigma

Despite growing acceptance in the United States, almost all LGBTQ+ individuals face some level of homophobia and discrimination. This may come from strangers, acquaintances, and even friends and family. They also face the constant threat of workplace harassment, bullying, and even hate crimes.

Lack of Support for LGBTQ+ People

Many members of the LGBTQ+ community choose to remain “in the closet,” keeping their sexual identity a secret to avoid discrimination. Living this type of double life can create feelings of loneliness and anxiety.

Those who are open about their identity and sexual preferences often face rejection from family, friends, and strangers. As a result, they may turn to substances to help dull the pain.

Internalized Homophobia

Whether or not their families and friends provide acceptance, many members of the LGBTQ+ community suffer from internalized homophobia. Internalized homophobia means the individual who is part of the LGBTQ+ community projects the negative social attitudes on themself. The result is often self-loathing and an inability to feel comfortable in one’s own skin.

Co-Occurring Disorders

Clinical depression, stress, and anxiety disorders are common among members of the LGBTQ+ community. Additionally, some may suffer from serious health issues such as HIV/AIDS. 

The Need for Specialized Treatment Options

Many individuals in the LGBTQ+ community, who struggle with addiction, may be hesitant to seek help from a traditional treatment facility, where they may fear discrimination.

Most traditional treatment programs do not address the specific needs of LGBTQ+ individuals. This includes learning successful coping methods for dealing with social isolation, family problems, homophobia, and violence.  

Luckily, rehabilitation centers have recognized this need, and many now offer LBGTQ+-specific addiction treatment programs. In fact, some of our American Addiction Centers (AAC) facilities offer specialized LGBTQ+ support programs. These AAC facilities include Greenhouse Treatment Center in Texas, Oxford Treatment Center in Mississippi, AdCare Treatment Centers in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, and River Oaks Treatment Center in Florida. Reaching out for support takes courage and strength. Call AAC today at to talk to one of our compassionate and knowledgeable admissions navigators, who can listen to your story and concerns, answer your questions, explain our treatment options and specialized programs, and help you begin your journey to recovery.

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