This article is the property of dugrehab.com (LGBTQ+ and Addiction: Causes, Resources and Treatment)
Even if society is moving toward the acceptance and inclusion of LGBTQ+ people, those in the community still face numerous challenges. According to a young transgender woman from Springfield, Missouri, the greatest obstacle is herself.
“One of the biggest things I struggle with as a trans woman is accepting myself, honestly,” Alora Lemalu, an artist and LGBTQ+ activist, told DrugRehab.com, “This society does not cater to me or to people like me, so I’m always in a constant battle of validating my own identity while having society tell me to throw it away.”
Although Lemalu does not know anybody who struggles with substance abuse, she said that she would not be surprised if people used it as a coping mechanism. She explained that it was very difficult for queer people to be proud of their identity when people are invested in bigotry and discrimination.
Hate speech hurts, and for the LGBTQ+ people without a hard shell, it can be fatal, Lemalu said.
Heterosexism, a form of bigotry against LGBTQ+ individuals, involves denying, ignoring, denigrating or stigmatizing nonheterosexual behaviors and people. It causes LGBTQ+ individuals to perceive themselves in a negative way and develop feelings of shame and self-contempt. To cope with the negative feelings, some LGBTQ+ individuals resort to using drugs or alcohol.
Even though some states implemented laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation, LGBTQ+ people still face prejudice in terms of housing, employment and social services. In some cases, LGBTQ+ people have been denied custody of their children upon discovery of their sexual orientation.
People in same-sex relationships often find it difficult to obtain health coverage for their spouses or partners because of the lack of protection from employer discrimination. According to a SAMHSA report, 50 percent of LGBTQ+ people admitted to having difficulties seeking health coverage while 75 percent revealed that they faced discrimination in the process.
CO-OCCURRING DISORDERS & OTHER HEALTH ISSUES
LGBTQ+ individuals often deal with anxiety and depression from not fitting in with their family or society. This can lead to mood disorders, eating disorders or other psychiatric illnesses.
Members of the LGBTQ+ community are more vulnerable to co-occurring disorders than their heterosexual counterparts. A 2014 study at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation disclosed that 92 percent of LGBTQ patients suffered from co-occurring mental disorders in contrast with 78 percent of non-LGBTQ+ patients.
It can be difficult for therapists to discern whether the mental illness or the substance use disorder came first, according to Levounis. He adds that at least one out of three people with a substance use disorder suffers from a co-occurring mental disorder. Co-occurring disorders typically feed off each other.
Multiple studies found that gay and bisexual men who inject methamphetamine have a high incidence of contracting HIV/AIDS. This may be due to needle sharing and unhygienic drug injection practices.
Preconceived judgment about queer individuals causes them to be reluctant to seek substance abuse treatment. This delay prevents doctors from offering proper treatment and diagnosing other co-occurring health issues. The late diagnosis may result in poor treatment outcomes.