While the fight for equality has come a long way in the past several decades, that does not mean that members of the LGBTQ community do not still suffer from feelings of anxiety over discrimination and rejection among their peers and family members. High levels of stress can lead to substance abuse and mental health issues. In fact, research shows that members of the LGBTQ community suffer from higher rates of mental illness and substance abuse than other groups.

Mental Illness and Substance Abuse in the LGBTQ Community

For many in the LGBTQ community, it was a long, hard road to reach a level of acceptance and comfort with their sexual orientation or gender identity. For some, the struggle is ongoing, and it is one filled with pain and uncertainty.

Being LGBTQ is not the cause of substance abuse. Rather, the primary driver is being subject to the personal hardships inherent in being part of this community. When a person is bullied at school, told they are a “sinner” by religious groups and fired from jobs because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, they tend to seek out a coping mechanism. Drugs and alcohol are often the quickest and most commonly used solution. Unfortunately, overuse of these coping mechanisms can lead to alcoholism and drug addiction.

Research Finds Higher Rates of Substance Abuse Among LGBTQ Groups

Addiction is a pervasive issue in this country, but the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has released studies indicating that substance abuse is up to 30 percent higher among LGBTQ youth than the general population. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), young people in the LGBTQ community who have faced family rejection are three times more likely to use illegal drugs.

SAMHSA has also released data on substance abuse rates and mental illness among sexual minority adults for the first time. According to the report, 4.3 percent of the population ages 18 and up identifies as gay, lesbian, or bisexual (the report did not address transgender). Of those, 15.1 percent admit to a past-year substance use disorder, which is nearly double that of the general population (7.8 percent). The same study found that sexual minority adults had more than two times the rate of past year mental illness than sexual majority adults (37.4 vs. 17.1 percent).


Getting Substance Abuse Treatment in the LGBTQ Community

The good news is that there is mental health and substance abuse treatment available for LGBTQ youth and adults, and many are taking advantage of those services. According to the SAMHSA study just referenced, greater numbers of sexual minority adults were seeking out mental health treatment over the past 12 months than were sexual majority adults (48.5 vs. 42.6 percent). SAMHSA has also reported that just 15.3 percent of LGTBQ adults who sought substance abuse treatment went to a specialty facility.

Most traditional substance abuse treatment centers now include LGBTQ addiction treatment as part of their individualized programs. At the Recovery Village, we offer a program tailored to each patient that may include medical detox, inpatient and outpatient treatment, partial hospitalization programs, and aftercare services. Our centers welcome anyone in the LGBTQ community who struggles with addiction and co-occurring disorders. Contact us now to learn about admissions and find out how you can begin your road to recovery with caring and compassionate support.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.