Drug addiction, also called substance use disorder, is a serious disease that makes you feel unable to control your drug use. It can affect anyone. However, addiction is most common in marginalized communities, including the LGBTQ+ community

Prevalence Of Addiction In The LGBTQ+ Community

Overall, members of the LGBTQ+ community face a much higher risk of drug use and addiction compared to the general public. 

For example, the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) found that:

  • 64.7% of lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) adults used alcohol in the past year, compared to 55.3% of the overall adult population
  • 37.6% of LGB adults used marijuana in the past year, compared to 16.2% of the overall adult population
  • 9% of LGB adults used heroin in the past year, compared to 3.8% of the overall adult population

Similarly, a study published in the Journal of School Health found that transgender students are 2.5 times more likely to use cocaine and methamphetamine and twice as likely to abuse prescription pain medications compared to their cisgender (non-transgender) peers. 

These higher rates of drug use lead to higher rates of drug addiction. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 20 to 30% of LGBTQ+ individuals experience drug addiction, compared to only 9% of the general population. 

Why Is Addiction More Common In The LGBTQ+ Community?

Drug addiction always starts with drug abuse. People are more likely to abuse drugs when they experience stress. As a marginalized group, the LGBTQ+ community faces significant stressors, such as:

  • fears about coming out 
  • rejection and/or abuse from family members
  • shame or self-hatred due to abuse from others
  • workplace discrimination that can lead to job loss or lack of promotion
  • hate crimes, including physical and sexual assault

These challenges can cause serious mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. To cope, many LGBTQ+ people turn to alcohol or other drugs. This type of self-medication usually leads to addiction.

What Recovery Challenges Does The LGBTQ+ Community Face?

When seeking addiction treatment, members of the LGBTQ+ community face some unique challenges, including:

Co-Occurring Mental Health Disorders

As mentioned above, many LGBTQ+ people experience mental health disorders due to discrimination and other stressors. 

If they try to treat their drug addictions without also treating their co-occurring mental health disorder(s), they’re likely to relapse (start using drugs again). 

Discrimination From Health Care Providers

Many LGBTQ individuals fear that their addiction treatment providers will judge or mistreat them. This fear may prevent them from seeking treatment in the first place.

Moreover, even if a treatment provider doesn’t discriminate against LGBTQ+ people, they might not understand the unique challenges LGBTQ+ people face, such as homophobia, transphobia, and family issues. 

In many cases, these issues contribute to drug abuse and addiction. Thus, if they aren’t addressed during treatment, the patient faces a high risk of relapse. 

Improper Housing

Some residential treatment centers deny transgender individuals from living with people who share their gender identity. 

In other words, a transgender woman may be forced to live in a residential facility for men, or vice versa. This situation can cause extreme discomfort and threaten the trangender person’s safety.

Similarly, staff at residential centers may not know how to administer or monitor hormone use in transgender people undergoing hormone therapy. Without proper access to hormones, a transgender person may experience serious mental health issues, including suicidal thoughts.

Addiction Treatment Options For The LGBTQ+ Community

Due to the above challenges, most LGBTQ+ people have a harder time finding addiction treatment compared to the general population. Fortunately, many addiction treatment centers have started offering programs designed specifically for LGBTQ+ people.

These programs are run by health care providers who understand the complex needs of the LGBTQ+ community.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

For example, due to the high rates of mental illness among the community, most LGBTQ+-specific programs offer dual diagnosis treatment. This type of treatment addresses other mental health issues that occur alongside drug addiction. 

Inpatient/Outpatient Care

Like traditional addiction treatment programs, LGBTQ+-specific programs offer both inpatient and outpatient treatment. 

Inpatient treatment is recommended for people with moderate to severe addictions, while outpatient programs may work for those with milder addictions and strong support systems at home. 

Therapy

Whether inpatient or outpatient, an LGBTQ+-specific-program will include therapy to help you recover from drug addiction, alcohol abuse, and any co-occurring mental health concerns. 

Your therapist can also teach you coping skills to deal with stressful or traumatic experiences surrounding your LGBTQ+ identity. 

Other Treatment Services

Along with therapy, your treatment plan may include services such as:

  • medical detox, where doctors will help you safely stop using drugs
  • medication-assisted treatment, where you’ll receive medications that help you recover from addictions to alcohol, tobacco, or opioids 
  • support groups, where you can connect with other LGBTQ+ people recovering from drug addiction

If you or a loved one identifies as LGBTQ+ and struggles with drug addiction, please contact an Ark Behavioral Health specialist to learn about our substance abuse treatment options.

Photo by Sara Dubler on Unsplash

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LGBTQ+ Healthcare Issues

The Dobbs decision, otherwise known as the court case that overturned Roe v. Wade, has resulted in confusing medical situations for many patients. On top of affecting access to abortions for straight, cisgender women, it presents heightened risks for LGBTQ+ healthcare as a whole. Flipping the switch on reproductive rights and privacy rights is a far-reaching act that makes quality care harder to find for an already underserved community.

As the fight against the Dobbs decision continues, it’s important to shed light on the full breadth of its impact. We’ll discuss specific ways that the decision can affect LGBTQ+ healthcare and offer strategies for overcoming these challenges.

How the Right to Bodily Privacy Affects LGBTQ+ Healthcare

When the original Roe v. Wade decision was made, the bodily privacy of people across the United States was protected. Now that bodily autonomy is no longer guaranteed, the LGBTQ+ community must brace itself for a potential loss of healthcare rights beyond abortions. This includes services like feminizing and masculinizing hormone therapy (particularly for transgender youth) that conservative lawmakers have been fighting against this year, as well as transition-related procedures. Without privacy, gender-affirming care may be difficult to access without documentation of sex as “proof” of gender.

As essential services for the LGBTQ+ community become more difficult to access, perhaps the most immediate effect we’ll see is eroding trust between healthcare providers and LGBTQ+ patients. When providers aren’t working in the best interest of patients — just like in cases of children and rape victims denied abortions — patients may further avoid preventative care in a community that already faces discrimination in doctor’s offices.

The Dobbs Decision Isn’t Just a Women’s Issue

While the Dobbs decision is often framed as a women's issue — specifically, one that affects cisgender women — it impacts the transgender and non-binary community just as much. All people who are capable of carrying a pregnancy to term have lost at least some ability to choose whether or not to give birth in the U.S.

For transgender and non-binary individuals, this decision comes with the added complexity of body dysmorphia. Without abortion rights, pregnant trans men and some non-binary people may be forced to see their bodies change, and be treated as women by healthcare providers and society as a result.

The Dobbs decision also opens up the possibility for government bodies to determine when life begins — and perhaps even to add legal protections for zygotes and embryos. This puts contraceptives at risk, which could make it more difficult to access gender-affirming care while getting the right contraceptives based on sex for LGBTQ+ individuals.

Overturning Reproductive Rights Puts IVF at Risk

Queer couples that dream of having their own children often have limited options beyond adoption. One such option is in vitro fertilization, or IVF, which involves implanting a fertilized egg into a uterus.

While IVF isn’t directly affected by the Dobbs decision, it could fall into a legal gray area depending on when states determine that life begins. Texas, for example, is already barring abortions as early as six weeks. To reduce embryo destruction, which often occurs when patients no longer want more children, limits could be placed on the number of eggs that can be frozen at once.

Any restrictions on IVF will also affect the availability of surrogacy as an option for building a family.

How Can LGBTQ+ Individuals Overcome Healthcare Barriers?

While the Dobbs decision may primarily impact abortion rights today, its potential to worsen LGBTQ+ healthcare as a whole is jarring. So how can the community be prepared?

If you’re struggling to find LGBTQ+-friendly providers near you, using telemedicine now can be an incredibly effective way to start developing strong relationships with far-away healthcare professionals. Telemedicine eliminates the barrier of geography and can be especially helpful for accessing inclusive primary care and therapy. Be sure to check if your insurance provider covers telemedicine.

If you’re seriously concerned about healthcare access in your area — especially if the Dobbs decision affects your whole state or you need regular in-person services that may be at risk — it may be time to consider moving now. While not everyone has the privilege to do so, relocating gives you the ability to settle in areas where lawmakers better serve your needs. However, this decision shouldn’t be taken lightly, so preparing and making progress on a moving checklist now can help you avoid issues later.

The Dobbs Decision Isn’t LGBTQ+-Friendly

The Supreme Court of the United States has proven the power of its conservative majority with the overturning of Roe v. Wade. However, the effects of the Dobbs decision don’t stop at affecting cisgender women’s abortion rights. In states with bans, it also leads to forced birth for trans men and non-binary individuals. Plus, the Dobbs decision increases the risk of other rights, like hormone therapy and IVF, being taken away.

Taking steps now, whether it’s choosing a virtual provider or considering a move, can help you improve your healthcare situation in the future.