Pride Month, LGBTQ Addiction Rates, & the Call for Inclusive Care

June is National Pride Month, a time to celebrate, honor, and recognize people who are lesbian, gay, transgender, bisexual, or queer.

This national month-long celebration helps highlight the most influential LGBT people and their contributions. It also sheds light on issues still faced by people who are LGBTQ, from barriers to healthcare, wage gaps, daily discrimination, and addiction rates.

People in the LGBTQ community face higher addiction (substance abuse) rates than their straight counterparts. Yet with swift and effective treatment, we can aid more people in seeking addiction recovery and preventing drug and alcohol abuse in LGBTQ teens and adults.

How Pride Month Draws Attention to Addiction in the LGBTQ Community

LGBT Pride Month, or simply Pride Month, draws attention to many issues the LGBTQ community faces, from higher rates of suicide to mental health issues to bullying and drug use.

Many of these issues are linked, and often begin in LGBTQ youth. While the U.S. has made strides toward inclusivity and creating a better world for all in the past few decades, people who identify as LGBTQ still face daily hardships.

Some include discrimination at work and school, prejudice about gender identity, pay gaps, and increased risk of many health and mental illness issues. Without a doubt, LGBTQ individuals face barriers that the general population often never experiences.

Pride Month works to not only highlight people in the LGBT community, but also to raise awareness of these issues and help prompt meaningful, lasting changes.

For example, getting affirming treatment in a welcoming healthcare treatment program could help more LGBTQ people find recovery from a substance use disorder (SUD).

Alcohol and Drug Use Rates Among LGBTQ

Regardless of sexual orientation, many people use alcohol and drugs as a way to cope with hardships in their lives.

However, this is especially true among the LGBTQ community. 

In fact, research from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health from 2021-2022 on past year substance use shows that both males and females in sexual minorities were 2-3 times more likely than straight people to use illicit drugs.

Illicit drugs include:

  • Marijuana
  • Heroin
  • Cocaine
  • Methamphetamine (meth)
  • Hallucinogens
  • Inhalants
  • Misuse of prescription drugs such as opioids and amphetamines

As for alcohol use, rates of alcohol abuse in sexual minority males is about the same as in straight men. Yet sexual minority women are about twice as likely to have taken part in heavy drinking (binge drinking at least 5 days) in the past month than straight women.

Factors in LGBTQ Substance Abuse Rates

There may be many factors that lead to substance use in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals. Perhaps the greatest factor is needing a way to cope with minority stress and negative experiences.

For many LGBTQ people, stressors begin in youth in an unsupportive or anti-LGBTQ environment. Young people may turn to alcohol or drugs as a way to self-medicate their anguish.

With time, this use can lead to drug or alcohol addiction.

Other factors that may impact substance abuse in LGBTQ people:

  • Fear of rejection
  • Social stigma
  • Discrimination
  • Harassment
  • Violence/hate crimes
  • Internalized stigma/homophobia

Long Term Effects of Addiction for People Who Are LGBTQ

On top of facing addiction, members of the LGBTQ community may avoid seeking help for it. Despite healthcare laws making discrimination illegal, many LGBT people still face prejudice in healthcare settings.

This can make them fear revealing their sexual identity, or deter them from getting help altogether.

And addiction can have negative health outcomes when left untreated, like:

  • Impact on mental health conditions
  • Heart health problems
  • Lung health issues
  • Stroke
  • Increased risk of cancer
  • Hepatitis B and C
  • Effects on pregnancy and breastfeeding
  • Financial strain
  • Strained relationships
  • Increased crime rates

Why Aren’t More LGBTQ People in Addiction Recovery?

Many healthcare providers still restrict services to people in LGBTQ-populations. Although laws are in place to protect all Americans from discrimination in medical settings.

However, other laws have since been approved that may allow providers to get around it — for religious reasons. And being LGBTQ is not acceptable in most western religions.

States with laws allowing healthcare providers to deny services based on religious reasons include:

  • South Carolina
  • Mississippi
  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Tennessee
  • Ohio
  • Illinois 


In short, if lesbian, bisexual, gay, queer, and transgender people could find treatment centers that didn’t discriminate, they may experience greater rates of addiction recovery.

Barriers to Effective Addiction Treatment for LGBTQ People

In addition to being outright denied access to healthcare, LBGTQ people also face other barriers to getting addiction treatment.

Limited Availability

There is well-documented need for addiction recovery care and a high prevalence of alcohol and drug use in LGBTQ youth and adults. Unfortunately, there are few treatment options available.

This includes few programs that are LGBTQ-inclusive and many treatment centers which discriminate based on gender or sexual identity.

Non-Discriminatory vs. Non-Affirming Care

There is also quite a difference between care that doesn’t discriminate against, for example, gay men, and care that actually affirms your gender identity.

People who are in LGBT addiction treatment programs which are not inclusive or geared toward the LGBTQ community may not experience safe spaces for recovery. 

Affirming care makes a vast difference in your recovery and in fact improves your mental and physical well-being overall.

How Can We Improve Addiction Recovery Rates in the LGBTQ Community?

There are a great many ways to improve both addiction and addiction recovery rates for LGBTQ people.

Here are some actionable ways to get started:

  1. Offer more LGBTQ addiction treatment programs. Such as the LGBT-inclusive rehab program at Otter House Wellness.
  2. Focus on laws that prevent discrimination. Legislation is the greatest way to foster change, and advocacy is crucial. Reach out to your state representatives, vote for non-discrimination laws, and work toward change.
  3. Be an ally. Whether you or a loved one are LGBTQ, offer your support, and use your voice to raise awareness and foster a more inclusive world.
  4. Support LGBTQ organizations. These advocates are doing the real work every day, not just during Pride Month, to ensure LGBTQ individuals enjoy fair rights.

Find LGBTQ Inclusive Care at Otter House Wellness

Pride Month is an important time to highlight the achievements of the LGBTQ community and to draw attention to issues they still face, like addiction.

If you are LGBTQ and looking for an affirming addiction rehab program in North Carolina, we can help.

Learn more about our intensive, effective outpatient rehab programs that are inclusive and welcoming in a homey environment. Contact us today to begin your recovery in a safe space.

Sources

Facility Staff

June 13, 2024

A group of diverse LGBTQ+ people holding up a Pride Flag and smiling in a park in Asheville, NC.
Stethoscope and piggy bank on a blue background. Symbolizing addiction treatment costs in Asheville, NC.
Tranquil forest landscape with flowing stream. Changing seasons affect mental health.

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