Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning (LGBTQ) youth are more likely to experience poor health than their heterosexual (straight/cisgender) peers.
As a webpage by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about LGBTQ health explains, “LGBTQ youth are part of every community, come from all walks of life, and are present in every racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, and geographical group.” However, social stigma about their sexual choices or identities remains a difficult challenge. “Stigma comes in many forms, such as discrimination, harassment, family disapproval, social rejection, and violence. This puts LGBTQ youth at increased risk for certain negative health outcomes.”
According to the CDC, transgender students are more likely than cisgender students to report violence victimization, substance misuse, and suicide risk. Although generally more likely to report sexually risky behaviors, transgender students were also more likely to report being tested for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.
A 2017-18 survey conducted by the HRC Foundation (Human Rights Campaign) and the University of Connecticut found that participating LGBTQ teenagers were not only experiencing unprecedented levels of stress, anxiety, and rejection but also felt overwhelmingly unsafe in their own school classrooms.
The findings were alarming:
- 77 percent of LGBTQ teenagers surveyed report feeling depressed or down
- 95 percent of LGBTQ youth reported trouble sleeping at night
- More than 70 percent of LGBTQ youth reported feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness
- Only 26 percent of LGBTQ youth reported they always feel safe in their school classrooms
This type of relentless and toxic stress frequently leads to self-medication with drugs and alcohol, regardless of age, gender identity, or sexual orientation. Trauma is a major driver of addictions. Many who identify as LGBTQ have been severely traumatized.
“Sexual minorities were more likely than their sexual majority counterparts to have substance use and mental health issues,” reported the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in 2016.
Substance use disorder in the past year among sexual minority and sexual majority adults (2015 percentages.Source: SAMHSA)
“The greater likelihood of sexual minority adults to have substance use and mental health issues compared with their sexual majority counterparts was observed across subgroups of adults defined by sex and by age group,” reported SAMHSA. “In particular, sexual minorities were more likely to use illicit drugs in the past year, to be current cigarette smokers, and to be current alcohol drinkers compared with their sexual majority counterparts. Sexual minority adults were also more likely than sexual majority adults to have substance use disorders in the past year, including disorders related to their use of alcohol, illicit drugs, marijuana, or misuse of pain relievers. Sexual minority adults were more likely than their sexual majority counterparts to need substance use treatment.”
While struggling to find their place in a society dominated by cisgender values, many who identify as LGBTQ suffer rejection, stigmatization, and outright violence from others. The consequences are often tragic. LGB youth are almost five times as likely to have attempted suicide compared to heterosexual youth, warns the Trevor Project, a national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ young people.
Addiction treatment has the best chance of success if it addresses the whole person. Those who identify as LGBTQ face specific stress and trauma that needs to be addressed during intervention for substance use disorder (SUD). Recovery Ways offers specialty groups for LGBTQ patients to address their specific needs in residential treatment and the partial hospitalization, or day program, setting.
LGBTQ-specific addiction treatment at Recovery Ways includes a combination of evidence-based and holistic therapies that focus on both the SUD and any mental health issues a patient may have. Common diagnoses associated with addiction include anxiety, depression, trauma, bipolar disorder, and ADHD. Evidence-based therapy includes cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT).
Holistic therapy is focused on providing healing of the mind, body, and soul. Individuals may participate in activities such as yoga, mindfulness and meditation, art or music therapy, occupational therapy, sensory management, massage therapy, recreational activities, and outdoor activities.
Recovery Ways is dually licensed to treat mental health and addiction. The highly qualified treatment team at Recovery Ways includes two psychiatrists, an affiliated family doctor, and therapists with master’s degrees. Recovery Ways can medically and psychologically support the transition process for transgender patients with SUD.
Treating addiction during the current pandemic may feel daunting, but Recovery Ways continues to serve patients and has taken steps to protect treatment clients and staff. The stress and isolation of the pandemic are likely to exacerbate any problematic substance use. Delaying treatment for a substance use disorder can be life-threatening. If a loved one or you are struggling with addiction and/or mental illness, we can help. For more information, please call us at (888) 988-5217.