Substance abuse is a concern for all teens, but the issue is particularly pressing for LGBTQ teens.

Teen substance abuse and teen addiction have been long-standing concerns. Studies have shown that LGBTQ youth are at an increased risk for substance abuse compared to their non-LGBTQ peers. It is important to understand the underlying causes of this increased risk of substance use to help with intervention and prevention strategies.

LGBTQ Youth Statistics on Substance Abuse & Addiction

Statistics on addiction and teen substance abuse indicate that most teens know someone within their age group who use substances (smoking, drinking or using drugs) during the school day. LGBTQ youth statistics indicate that teens in this population are 90% more likely to use substances than their heterosexual peers.

Challenges in LGBTQ Youth Spaces

Many LGBTQ teens have experienced greater acceptance than sexual minorities of the past, but despite increased social acceptance, there are still some cultural subsections of American culture that actively disparage LGBTQ individuals. These factors, as well as discriminatory behavior by varying parts of society, bring many challenges that the LGBTQ community face.  LGBTQ youth experience the pressures of being teens as well as the additional challenge of coming out to family, friends, and peers. In a 2015 survey of LGBTQ teens, 34% report being bullied at school, 28% were bullied electronically and were 140% more likely to have missed at least one school day within the last month due to feeling unsafe at school.


LGBTQ youth continue to face heterosexism or the misguided belief that heterosexuality is the “correct” way to live. This view persists in some sectors of culture and undermines LGBTQ youth.

Internalized Homophobia

Internalized homophobia can occur when LGBTQ youth do not have adequate support and internalize outside criticism of LGBTQ people.


LGBTQ discrimination continues to impact adults and teens around the world. The devastating impact of discrimination can increase an adolescent’s risk of anxiety and depression, worsen the quality of life and diminish feelings of safety and acceptance.

Employment Struggles

Challenges with discriminatory employers, limited resources and bias in the workplace create hostile work environments for some people in the LGBTQ community.

LGBTQ legal rights continue to be a factor in regard to bias and maltreatment. Sometimes it is challenging to have access to the same legal representation as non-LGBTQ citizens as a result of discriminatory practices and this leaves people of the LGBTQ community at greater risk of vulnerability.

Co-Occurring Disorders

LGBTQ youth suicide rates in 2015 survey indicate that 29% of those surveyed had attempted suicide within the previous year. Members of the LGBTQ community are reported to have a greater likelihood of co-occurring conditions. Substance use disorder and LGBTQ depression or anxiety can have devastating outcomes.

Commonly Used Drugs by LGBTQ Youth

The following substances are commonly used among LGBTQ youth:

  • Alcohol: Teen alcohol abuse places them at greater risk for additional substance use challenges.
  • Marijuana: Many people falsely believe that they cannot become addicted to marijuana. Marijuana and teens can lead to problematic use and reliance on substances to cope with daily living.
  • Methamphetamine: Meth addiction and teens using crystal meth often result in tragic outcomes and additional health complications.
  • Heroin: Teen heroin use is often deadly due to the highly addictive nature of opiates.
  • Cocaine: Teen cocaine use frequently contributes to additional substance use patterns and is commonly used in conjunction with other substances.
  • Hallucinogens: Teens and LSD and acid can present their own sets of risks and potential complications.
  • Inhalants: Inhalant abuse may seem less risky to some, but teens and inhalants sometimes result in fatalities.
  • Prescription drugs: Teen prescription drug abuse is on the rise as access to a variety of medications are now readily available. Adderall abuse is a common issue among teens.
  • Steroids: Teens on steroids and steroid addiction can cause many additional health issues on top of the inherent risks associated with abusing a drug.

Drugs and substance abuse among youth remains a tragic factor for those who face a variety of stressors in daily life, including discrimination and harassment.

Signs of Youth Addiction

Being able to recognize the signs of drug use in teens could save a life. Some of the most common signs of teen substance abuse include:

  • Lack of interest in family involvement
  • Increased isolation
  • Changes in appetite
  • Disregard for curfews and other family expectations.

LGBTQ Youth Addiction Treatment

Teen addiction treatment is available through The Recovery Village. If you have a teen who is struggling with substance use disorder or a co-occurring mental health condition, the professionals at The Recovery Village can help. LGBTQ youth resources are available and accessible. Your teen doesn’t need to face these challenges alone. Reach out to a representative today for more information. 

Megan Hull
Editor – Megan Hull
Megan Hull is a content specialist who edits, writes and ideates content to help people find recovery. Read more
Paula Holmes
Medically Reviewed By – Paula Holmes, LCSW
Paula Holmes is a licensed clinical social worker, psychotherapist and freelance writer who lives and works in midcoast Maine. She received her master's degree in Social Work in 2008 from the University of Maine. Read more

National Institute of Drug Abuse. “Substance Use and SUD in LGBT Populations.” Updated September 2017. Accessed July 21, 2019.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “LGBT Youth.” Accessed July 21, 2019.

Morin, Amy, LCSW. “Teen Drug Use Warning Signs.” Updated February 10, 2018. Accessed July 21, 2019.

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.