People who identify themselves as LGBT have more risk of substance abuse, such as alcoholism compared to those who identify as heterosexual. But why? And what should society be doing to help?
LGBT adults are also more likely to smoke cigarette, drink alcohol, and take other substances
Perhaps more worryingly, and quite telling, is that LGBT individuals are also much more at risk from depression, anxiety and other emotional and behavioural problems. Including suicidal thoughts.
Stress is a huge factor in substance abuse
Despite the progress in gay rights in many countries over the last 20 years, and despite the fact that some countries are no longer very close from equality for this community, LGBT are still confronted to long personal history of prejudice by others.
Whether this takes the form of discriminatory laws, or discriminatory treatment, for example in the sectors of health care, housing, employment, or something much more personal as a negative and sometimes volatile or abuse reaction from friends and family, this all serves to create a large amount of trauma. Emotionally, financially and physically.
These levels of stress and past experience all too easily lead to feelings of fear, anxiety, isolation, depression and mistrust. Not so surprising that some of them try to find a shelter with the alcohol.
This is why the fight for equality, and the celebration of our differences is so important. Nobody should be left behind or outside because of who they are, and certainly no one should have to fear for their personal safety, health and wellbeing.
Treatment for addiction does not meet the needs of LGBT people
Many treatment services and centers simply do not offer a program for addiction that meets the needs of LGBT people. They tend to adopt a one size fits all approach to alcohol recovery, yet this is not sufficient to truly help LGBT people tackly not only the addiction, but to find ways to live with their experiences without substance abuse.
Even worse, the stigma, intolerance and discrimination experienced could even make LGBT people reluctant to disclose their sexual orientation for fear of experiencing more of the same. In some cases it happens and this is simply not acceptable.
When seeking treatment for addiction every person should be able to feel safe and secure in order for them to really be able to benefit from treatment plans. To make sure this is the case for the LGBT specialist programs and so called gay alcohol rehab centres are becoming more and more presents.
Treatments include careful management of any withdrawal symptoms, an element of self love and self healing, and because there is often more than one mental health disorder, being able to carefully address those with the help of a licenced professional is very important.
Also, by being surrounded by people who live the same things, it is possible to share experiences and to have hope by listening to people who recovered after a long way.
Break the cycle of dependency
For members of the LGBT suffering from alcohol addiction, it can be a very hard thing to recover. The world outside the treatment centre is still a cruel place, and discrimination still exists. It is up to everyone to stamp this out, but not forget those who are suffering now and make sure they are supported.
Of course making this harder is that alcohol is an accepted part of society, and we are continuously surrounded by it. Being able to still enjoy an active social life surrounded by alcohol but abstaining is tough and if you know someone who is suffering they will need your support in this too. It is important, the repercussions of alcohol abuse are serious.