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L.G.B.T. Substance Abuse Support & Resources

People who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) have a greater likelihood of suffering from mental health and substance abuse issues, according to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH).

According to NAMI:

  • An estimated 20-30% of LGBTQ people abuse substances, compared to about 9% of the general population.
  • 25% of LGBT people abuse alcohol, compared to 5-10% of the general population.

There are a number of causes at play, but the fact that federally funded research, like the NSDUH, only recently started including LGBT communities speaks volumes about the challenges sexual-minority adults face in finding adequate professional treatment for addiction.

  • The report found that LGBT populations are twice as likely to struggle with mental health issues like depression, anxiety and addiction. At least part of the reason for this health disparity is the stress that comes from being gay in a less than welcoming and often violent society.

“LGBT people are far more likely than any other minority group in the United States to be victimized by violent hate crime,” Southern Poverty Law Center found, after a review of the F.B.I.’s national hate crime statistics.

There are also the less high-profile social prejudices and pressures that LGBT people face like some of the following:

  • States in which housing, healthcare and employment discrimination against LGBT people is legal
  • Homophobia/transphobia in society-at-large, but also among friends and family members
  • Bullying based on sexual orientation
  • Social isolation that leads to mental health stressors

“The stress that comes from daily battles with discrimination and stigma is a principle driver of these rates of substance use, as gay and transgender people turn to tobacco, alcohol, and other substances as a way to cope with these challenges,” writes The Center for American Progress.


Addiction recovery treatment centers with specialized programs for LGBT people are known to be more effective. Unfortunately, there just aren’t that many treatment centers with legitimate, specialized programs geared toward the unique issues gay people battle. One study found that more than 70 percent of facilities that claimed to offer “LGBT programs” didn’t actually provide services that were any different than what was offered to the general population.

To complicate matters, healthcare discrimination against LGBT populations is a serious issue and one reason gay and transgender people often do not want to seek treatment.

A 2017 survey of LGBT women and men that went to the doctor at least once the previous year, shines light on just how common this type discrimination is in the United States:

  • 8 percent reported that a doctor or health care provider refused them services based on their sexual orientation
  • 9 percent stated that a doctor used harsh or abusive language when treating them
  • 7 percent reported that a health care provider or doctor refused to acknowledge their family unit, including a child or same-sex partner

Breaking the discriminatory cycle is key to providing better health care and addiction treatment for the LGBT population. Often, connecting with other members of the LGBT community who have successfully made it through treatment and are living sober, in active recovery, can make an enormous difference in helping another person out of the struggle.

One method for LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning or queer) people worried about health care discrimination is to “Leverage your community,” as Sophie Saint Thomas writes, and reach out to organizations and people in the health care industry that are allies and experts on the needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people.

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