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Substance abuse in the LGBTQ community occurs at a much higher rate than in the general population. Reasons for LGBTQ addiction include discrimination, social and familial rejection, negative self-image, and attending venues where substance abuse is the norm and expected, such as gay bars.

The key problem LGBTQ youth face in regard to substance abuse is how societal stressors can cause mental health issues, which are then exacerbated by the fact that the main venues LGBTQ youth use to socialize are also places drug use is common and expected.

Given this context, it may come as no surprise that due to various factors, drug and alcohol abuse is a serious problem in the LGBTQ community.

South Coast Behavioral Health understands the unique challenges that LGBTQ people face. We offer LGBTQ-friendly therapists and addiction treatment in Southern California.

In this article, we will explore the challenges LGBTQ people face regarding substance abuse, as well as special considerations for recovery and treatment options.

What are LGBTQ Addiction Rates?

According to studies, rates of LGBTQ substance abuse are two-to-four times higher than they are among heterosexuals.

This is especially true when comparing young people in both cohorts. LGBTQ youth use more cigarettes, alcohol, and marijuana, and they are also more likely to use street drugs like cocaine, methamphetamine, and injectable drugs.

LGBTQ Addiction Facts

LGBTQ statistics regarding addiction include:

  • More than a third of LGBTQ individuals (38.7%) used marijuana in the past year, as opposed to just 16.2% of the overall adult population
  • Male homosexuals are 9.5 times more likely to use heroin and 12.2 times more likely to use amphetamines than their straight counterparts
  • Twenty-five percent of gay and transgender individuals abuse alcohol, as compared to 5-to-10 percent for the general population
  • Gay men are twice as likely to use cocaine and 33 times as likely to try inhalant drugs than heterosexuals, according to the 1995 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse.

There are various reasons why LGBTQ substance abuse rates are so high.

Co-Occurring Disorders and LGBTQ Substance Abuse

By far the greatest predictor of drug and alcohol abuse is mental health issues. Many of those battling substance use disorders (SUDs) also have a co-occurring mental health problem.

According to reports published in the Journal of the American Medical Association:

  • Approximately half of all individuals with severe mental disorders also struggle with substance abuse
  • 37% of alcoholics and 53% of drug abusers have at least one serious mental illness
  • 29% of all people diagnosed as mentally ill abuse alcohol or drugs.

In 2018, 39% of people of LGBTQ backgrounds reported experiencing some kind of mental illness.

Two of the mental health issues most highly correlated with substance abuse are anxiety and depression. A 2018 study from the UK’s National Health Service found that 61% of LGBTQ people suffer from anxiety – far higher than the 17% seen in the general population.

LGBTQ youth are also roughly six times more likely to experience depression than their heterosexual counterparts. A survey from the University of California Santa Cruz found that 41% of California adolescents of LGBTQ background showed signs of clinical depression, compared to 10% among California adolescents generally.

Experts say an important reason LGBTQ people are more susceptible to mental health issues lies in the fact that they face higher levels of discrimination, social rejection, and family discord. They then turn to drugs or alcohol to cope with their feelings.

Whatever the reason, LGBTQ addiction treatment often requires simultaneous mental health therapy for co-occurring depression, anxiety, stress, or other issues. This is known as dual diagnosis treatment.

Other Reasons for LGBTQ Addiction Rates

In addition to these stresses and resulting mental health issues, some experts also point to the prominent place bars, parties, and LGBT Pride events occupy in gay social life. These venues are important social outlets but also environments where substance abuse is rampant and expected, making maintaining a sober lifestyle next to impossible.

Dating apps are another factor. For example, reports indicate that Grindr, the world’s most popular gay dating app, has become inundated with drug dealers looking for new clientele. Using coded language, people can easily search for whatever wares they desire, message a dealer, and arrange a meeting.

Are There LGBTQ-Friendly Treatment Centers?

South Coast Behavioral Health welcomes people from all walks of life who need addiction treatment, including LGBTQ individuals.

We offer LGBTQ rehab centers in the following locations across Southern California:

Not only are our treatment centers beautiful and comfortable, but they are also staffed by LGBTQ-friendly therapists, meaning you can come to us as you are. Finally, our LGBTQ-friendly residential treatment program features personalized medication management by trained South Coast professionals.

Treating LGBTQ Substance Abuse

We are committed to providing substance use treatment that is both compassionate and scientifically informed. We offer treatment programs across Southern California, including:

The therapies offered at our facilities include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Trauma therapy
  • Recovery planning
  • Individual, group, or family counseling
  • Relapse prevention strategies
  • 12-step programs
  • Meditation and mindfulness
  • Training in life skills such as time management and problem-solving
  • Other therapies and interventions as necessary

All clients receive addiction treatment individualized to their needs and formulated to treat both body and mind.

South Coast Behavioral Health is a welcoming, open, LGBTQ-friendly, safe environment free from judgment and discrimination. We offer a close-knit community and fellowship where everyone can feel seen and supported.

Contact us today to get started on your recovery journey. We look forward to hearing from you soon!


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At South Coast, our experts are dedicated to providing comprehensive information to help you make well-informed decisions for your health and happiness in recovery.

Contact us today if you are ready to begin your journey to recovery. Our team is available around the clock, so feel free to call us at any time.