When discussing issues that are critically important in the movement for gay and transgender equality, many refer to marriage and workplace discrimination—far more often than health, including substance use. Yet a 2012 report issued by the Center for American Progress, titled “Why the Gay and Transgender Population Experiences Higher Rates of Substance Use”, indicates that between 20 and 30 percent of gay and transgender people abuse substances, compared to approximately 9 percent of the general population: a staggering, if not understandable, disparity.
Another report from Journal of Drug Issues confirms a strong association between homosexual and trans stigmas, and alcohol & drug use; stigmatization was found to lead not only to higher rates of substance use, but also significantly increased sexual risk behaviors. Further research demonstrates that the LGBTQ is at a considerably higher risk for substance use and substance use disorders.
Minority Stress Is A Serious Thing.
There are several other factors that help explain the numbers, and clarify the elevated risk of problematic substance use in these communities. Studies indicate that gay and transgender people use alcohol and drugs to cope with discrimination and prejudice. The American Psychological Association uses the term “minority stress” to describe a perspective in which the relationship between minority and dominant values results in conflict with the social environment experienced by minority group members. The concept of minority stress poses a theory in which sexual minority health disparities can be explained in large part by “stressors induced by a hostile, homophobic culture, which often results in a lifetime of harassment, maltreatment, discrimination, and victimization”—and may ultimately impact access to proper health care, and thus treatment for addiction.
LGBT Catered Treatment On The Rise?
Moreover, despite the confirmed numbers and decades of research, a study conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) several years ago revealed that only 6 percent of substance abuse treatment facilities surveyed across the country offered special programs for gay and lesbian clients. That’s 6% people! The lack of culturally competent health care services likely fuels the increased rates of substance-use among gay and transgender people, coupled with the lack of governmental public policies that promote health equality.
When discussing best practices for reducing rates of substance use in the gay and transgender populations, it is imperative to consider both short- and long-term strategies. While treatment centers and recovery services can work to become more culturally competent, and provide better services to accommodate these communities, a more holistic and comprehensive outlook is also necessary. Anti-gay and anti-transgender prejudice is one of the primary catalysts that fuels the aforementioned higher rates of addiction, and must be ended through inclusive legislation and policies. In promoting overall health for gay and transgender people, the tactical approach must further address full equality: not only when it comes to workplace discrimination, marriage, and other more popular issues, but also in addiction and substance abuse.
This article came into fruition when we were messaged on social media to incorporate LGBT and substance abuse. Here at SoberNation, we want to continue to do our best and strive to reach those who are affected by substance abuse across the nation.
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