WHY IS THE RISK OF ADDICTION HIGHER AMONGST THE LGBTQ COMMUNITY?
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon
Even though our society and culture is much more open and welcoming nowadays to individuals who express their sexuality differently, coming out remains a complicated and deeply confusing process. So is living as a young adult possessing a queer identity.
While more resources are available, there is a disconnect between how the majority are “packaged” and the extent to which they are accepting of alternative lifestyles.
Unfortunately, the risk of addiction to alcohol or drugs in the LGBTQ community tends to be much higher, for a variety of reasons and a confluence of circumstances that few are able to understand.
The only way to combat this phenomenon is by understanding the root causes of these debilitating issues, and the ways in which community-based resources can enhance their utility for the betterment of LGBTQ lives.
Here is a quick primer on the issues that would hopefully lead to a greater understanding of these risks.
The stress of coming out can vary according to the degree of acceptance an individual finds in their community.
While strides have been made in the rights of LGBTQ individuals that were perhaps unfathomable decades ago, it’s still tough to say, a transgender or lesbian teen.
Things aren’t always easy and progress does not have a streamlined trajectory towards justice – to very loosely paraphrase a famous saying from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
There is still plenty of stigmas and sometimes added visibility in entertainment is not enough.
Members of the LGBTQ community continue to suffer plenty of stigma and prejudice that have a direct impact on their quality of life. While some big cities tend to be more amenable to the community, not everyone has the financial resources to move there.
Facing discrimination at school, in the workplace, or social isolation within the family unit still happens. This can lead to a huge amount of stress and anxiety, with people looking to various substances for comfort.
Quality of services
There should not be a one size fits all policy when it comes to offering treatment to different communities, but unfortunately, the therapeutic services offered have not always been able to meet the unique needs of people who are suffering from addiction.
Different communities are at higher risk of addiction than others for reasons unique to their circumstances. Proper treatment of addiction relies upon those working in a rehab clinic understanding the nuances of their issues and being able to get to the root causes.
Sadly, only a handful truly understand the needs of the LGBTQ community and are aware of the ways in which methods tailor-made for their particular concerns can help.
The mental health connection
It has already been briefly touched upon the levels of stress members of the LGBTQ community are subjected to, but there’s no underestimating the direct correlation between that and the higher risk of addiction.
Or, some mental health issues are dealt with badly when it comes to dealing with the LGBTQ population and some conditions are generally misunderstood.
The specific mental health needs are often underrepresented even though, again, a one size fits all approach to therapy has consistently proven to be an albatross.
Therefore, the inability of some rehab clinics to address the specific emotional and psychological needs of people identifying as queer, gay, lesbian, or transgender often leads to an even greater sense of stigmatization, which is then sublimated in drug abuse or alcoholism.
Addiction treatment and discrimination
While receiving treatment for addiction is an important part of the process and eventually leads to the building of a stronger support network consisting of individuals who possess a keen understanding of the issues LGBTQ people face, the process can be lacking and incredibly unsatisfying.
Unfortunately, some centers are discriminatory and offer a hostile environment that negates the therapeutic stipulations of most rehab clinics.
When a person’s sexual orientation acts as a blockade towards them receiving the treatment needed to get healthy, this can be hugely damaging.
Intolerance within a therapeutic environment might seem shocking, but sadly it occurs rather frequently and serves as a major impediment to those dealing with addiction.
Differing levels of discrimination within the community
So far we have covered the different ways in which discrimination from the community at large can affect gay, lesbian, queer, and transgender communities.
We have not yet touched upon two key issues within the LGBTQ community that leads to various levels of distress and is the source of many mental health and addiction issues.
Individuals from different socio-economic backgrounds have access to varying degrees of resources within their communities that can help them battle depression, anxiety, and substance abuse.
LGBTQ individuals who have less financial resources tend to live in areas in which it is incredibly difficult to find help – or, sometimes, the help is not at their disposal.
Coming out as a young teenager can be difficult enough, but what if that person does not have the financial means to deal with the repercussions? Those who possess less are more vulnerable to addiction and the pain that comes with it.
The same tends to go for people of color who find themselves dealing with an overarching, a sometimes monolithic white gay culture that does not take into account their unique frame of reference and experiences.
Within the LGBTQ community, transgender individuals arguably deal the most with discrimination: the inability to find work or a good support network affects their access to quality care, and they are thus the most vulnerable when it comes to substance abuse.
Addiction is a strange beast that is still being understood. Why some people are more prone to substance abuse than others has not been fully explicated in the books, but we can glean that those who suffer the most are individuals who experience specific stressors and a sense of being outliers in society.
The LGBTQ community has won many battles in the past few decades, but addiction is a beast that still haunts them.
Only by making attempts to comprehend the underlying causes will a cure for addiction be found.