LGBT communities at greater risk for alcohol and substance abuse
During this LGBT Pride Month, Mountainside celebrates lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities and the many global contributions they have made. The addiction treatment center also raises awareness about the disproportionate rate of substance abuse in the LGBT population. While LGBT people have made advancements in the pursuit of understanding and cultural acceptance of their lives, they remain more likely than their non-LGBT peers to experience gaps in their quality of health and health care linked to societal stigma, discrimination, and denial of their civil and human rights.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports that “… when compared with the general population, LGBT people are more likely to use alcohol and drugs, have higher rates of substance abuse, are less likely to abstain from use, and are more likely to continue heavy drinking into later life.” SAMHSA points to studies finding that between 20 percent and 30 percent of the LGBT population may be experiencing substance abuse disorders.
“We recognize and value the diversity at Mountainside, and we are committed to our core value of respecting the needs of each individual,” said a Mountainside spokesperson.
Gay and transgender health challenges have received less media attention in comparison to other LGBT issues. However, qualified healthcare is also an important equality issue. According to Center for American Progress, stress from fighting discrimination is one of the driving factors behind the disproportionately high rate of substance abuse in LGBT communities.
Facts about alcohol and substance abuse in self-identified LGBT populations (estimated to be 3.5 percent of American adults or approximately 10 million adult Americans):
Roughly 25 percent of gay and transgender people abuse alcohol, compared to 5 to 10 percent of the non-LGBT population. (Center for American Progress)
Lesbians are significantly more likely to drink heavily than heterosexual women. Bisexual women report more hazardous drinking than heterosexual or lesbian women. (SAMHSA)
Men who have physical relationships with men are 12.2 times more likely to use amphetamines than men who do not. They are also 9.5 times more likely to use heroin than men who do not have physical relationships with men. (Center for American Progress)
Emotional challenges surrounding the process of “coming out” to family and friends can also lead LGBT individuals to substance abuse. Even identifying as LGBT can result in high rates of depression and anxiety, as some LGBT individuals internalize negative feelings about their sexual identity. There is a strong sense of shame among LGBT people who lack support from their families.
Another hurdle in receiving treatment: fear of discrimination and provider bias causes LGBT individuals to hide their sexual orientation or gender identity. This discomfort results in a delay in seeking treatment.
“At Mountainside we give full support in welcoming LGBT clients into our treatment community, and we make sure that all of our clients feel comfortable as they focus on their recovery,” said a Mountainside spokesperson. “We believe that every interaction with our clients is a chance to provide best in class service — regardless of age, gender, race, religion, or sexual orientation.”