Pride Month: Addiction and the LGBTQ+ Community

It’s Pride Month! Each year, June serves as a time for reflection and action. We ask you to join us as we celebrate, support and honor the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer members of our society. Today, we’d like to discuss the impact of substance abuse on the LGBTQ+ community – and the inclusive health services available to them at Cumberland Heights.


Addiction in the LGBTQ+ Community

Unfortunately, LGBTQ+ folks face higher rates of substance abuse than the general population. That’s primarily because of the social pressure and obstacles that they face on a regular basis. People who are heterosexual will rarely face problems like these, and therefore, they may not even think about their effects. That’s why it’s important for allies to educate themselves on queer issues – this month and every month.

Challenges faced by LGBTQ+ individuals include:

  • Stigma, homophobia and discrimination
  • Being rejected by friends or family members
  • Bullying, hate crimes, assault and public humiliation
  • Losing ties with one’s community (church, school friends or neighbors)
  • Mental health concerns, especially depression and anxiety

As anyone familiar with addiction will be aware, it is common for people who are stressed to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol. Individuals facing a great deal of social struggle, emotional turmoil or discrimination may seek to forget about their problems by drinking or using drugs. However, while this may numb them for a little while, these unhealthy coping mechanisms can result in bigger problems down the line.


Take a Look at the Statistics

According to the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), substance use patterns of lesbian, gay and bisexual participants are higher than those of their heterosexual peers.

(*Note: because the cited survey only includes lesbian, gay and bisexual respondents, the acronyms used below have been modified to reflect those populations.)

Over 1/3 of LGB respondents (37.6%) reported past year marijuana use, compared to just 16.2% of heterosexual adults.

9% of LGB adults polled reported past year opioid use, compared to 3.8% of the overall adult U.S. population.

LGB participants reported elevated rates of trying and using e-cigarettes compared to the general population.

LGB individuals who enter treatment typically present with more severe substance use disorders than the general population.


Cases of Dual Diagnosis

As we mentioned above, co-occurring mental health conditions often come along with substance use disorders. LGBTQ+ people are more prone to emotional disorders, especially if they live a “closeted” life. If someone has to hide their sexuality from others, they will almost certainly experience significant distress.

In the LGBTQ+ community, common dual diagnoses are:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • Major depressive disorder
  • Self-harm or suicidal tendencies
  • Chronic stress
  • Trauma and PTSD

If you are a person with co-occurring addiction and mental health concerns, we encourage you to seek treatment as soon as possible. Coordinated clinical care is required to resolve both of these concerns simultaneously.


Help for Members of the LGBTQ+ Community

Many people hesitate to seek help for a substance use disorder or mental illness because they are worried about whether a facility will be a good fit for them. This is a topic of special concern in certain areas of the United States, like the Bible Belt.

Fortunately, there are affirming, accredited centers across the country that provide care tailored to members of the LGBTQ+ community. One such facility is Cumberland Heights. By entering a treatment center that specializes in assisting people from a variety of backgrounds, you will find the support, encouragement and validation necessary for lifelong recovery.

Evidence-based treatment methods proven effective for LGBTQ+ individuals include motivational interviewing, contingency management, cognitive-behavioral therapy and social support therapy. Cumberland Heights provides these services and more, all within an environment of acceptance and empowerment. We believe that it is possible to recover life.

To learn more about our LGBTQ+ addiction treatment program in Tennessee, contact the Cumberland Heights admissions team today. We are happy to work with you to develop a program of care tailored to your needs.