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LGBT individuals may be more prone to substance abuse and addiction than heterosexual individuals.

In general, people who identify as part of the LGBT population:

  • are more likely to use drugs or alcohol
  • have higher rates of substance abuse overall
  • are less likely to abstain from alcohol or drug use
  • are more likely to continue heavy drinking later in life

In terms of numbers, recent data from 2015 shows that people who are part of a “sexual minority” (defined as lesbian, gay, or bisexual individuals):

  • were twice as likely as heterosexual adults to abuse illicit drugs (past-year)
  • 30.7 percent of sexual minority adults used marijuana in the past year, compared to 12.9 percent of heterosexual adults
  • one in 10 sexual minority adults used prescription pain relievers (opioids) compared to 4.5 percent of heterosexual adults

Also, one study conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse shows that lesbian, gay, and bisexual adolescents are 90 percent more likely than heterosexual adolescents to abuse substances.

Substance abuse often leads to addiction, and continued abuse can lead to co-occurring mental health disorders and other personal life issues. Such high rates of substance abuse in LGBTQ populations reflect the causes which lead to instances of substance abuse.

Factors That Affect LGBTQ Substance Abuse And Addiction

Those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer or questioning often face life situations which can lead to substance abuse, contribute to addiction, and impact all aspects of their health and well-being.

Factors which may contribute to substance abuse and addiction in LGBT individuals include:

  • social stigma — This includes negative attitudes toward LGBT individuals.
  • harassment — Other people may treat LGBT individuals with violence or hostility.
  • rejection — LGBT-identifying youth are more likely to be rejected by family members than heterosexual youth.
  • discrimination — LGBT individuals may lose jobs, face limitations on getting treatment, or develop/contribute to mental health disorders resulting from social stigma and prejudice.
  • violence — Negative attitudes and social stigma increase the chances of LGBT individuals, especially youth, experiencing violence such as bullying, physical assault, and suicide-related actions.
  • homophobia — Misunderstanding or rejection can expose a LGBT individual to homophobia, both in others and in self (due to fear, guilt, and shame).

For those who enter addiction treatment, these past traumatic events and life situations can become barriers to receiving adequate care. LGBT-friendly rehab centers and the programs offered in these facilities were designed to fit the specific needs which affect treatment success for these individuals.