One of the most common reasons that people use drugs and alcohol is to cope with stress. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) people are likely to experience more stress than their heterosexual counterparts. Stressful circumstances might include:
The Center for American Progress reports that 20 to 30 percent of LGBT people use drugs and alcohol, compared to about nine percent of people in the general population. In addition, stress also aggravates mental illness (which in turn can drive people to use substances to self-medicate). As such, LGBT individuals are more likely to experience depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other mental health disorders, reports the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). They are also more likely to experience suicidal thoughts and to attempt suicide.
However, stress isn’t the only reason people use drugs and alcohol. Substance use can have a strong social component, giving people a reason to meet in clubs and bars. Party subcultures among LGBT communities can also encourage substance use and abuse. A study in the UK reported in the Independent found that the drugs most widely used by LGBT individuals were party drugs – cannabis , poppers, cocaine, Ecstasy, ketamine, and amphetamines.
A more specific breakdown by SAMHSA found:
These circumstances make it crucial for LGBT individuals to have access to mental health and substance abuse treatment. However, the issues that LGBT individuals face may present additional difficulties when finding the right treatment program.
A study of LGBT-specific treatment programs in Substance Use & Misuse found that about 12 percent of treatment facilities reported that they offered LGBT-specific services. However, follow-up found that only 7.4 percent of them could identify a specific service tailored to LGBT clients – the rest simply reported that they accepted or did not discriminate against LGBT clients.
Tailored services really do make the difference. Another study in Substance Use & Misuse found that people who received services specific to LGBT groups had much higher rates of abstinence from substance use after completing treatment.
There are a number of benefits to attending a facility that offers LGBT specialty treatment.
When it comes to co-occurring issues of substance abuse and mental health, dual diagnosis treatment can be the best way to help you start a new healthy life in recovery.
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Integrated Treatment of Substance Abuse & Mental Illness