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LGBTQIA Addiction Rehab and Recovery Guide

LGBTQIA Addiction Rehab and Recovery Guide

An LGBTQIA addiction rehab and recovery guide can help you understand your addiction and options for treatment.

As a member of the LGBTQ community, you have specific needs when it comes to addiction treatment. Because of these needs, what works for others in recovery might not work as well for you. Far too many drug and alcohol rehab centers fail to cater to LGBT individuals. This puts you at a disadvantage. However, you need to know that you do have options.

As a Member of the LBGT community, you may be in a situation right now where you really don't understand your addiction.

It's possible that you could list many reasons why you feel you need to use drugs or alcohol. Either way, you need help. Fortunately, there are targeted drug and alcohol treatment methods for the LGBTQ nation. These treatment methods are aimed toward helping you specifically, in just the ways you need.

First, let's discuss some vital information that you need to know.

Substance Abuse Statistics for the LGBTQ Community

Substance abuse is prevalent among the LGBTQIA population. This is something that most people don't realize.

In the United States, we tend to think of ourselves as a nation of tolerance and acceptance. That sounds nice, but it's grossly inaccurate.

Members of the LGBTQ community are constantly victims of discrimination. This and other issues they face only serve to fan the flame of addiction among this population.

Various LGBTQI addiction statistics and facts tell us that:

  • As many as 30% LGBT individuals may suffer from an addiction.
  • This is much higher than the national average of the general population, which is 9%.
  • LGBT youths suffer from substance abuse twice as often as their heterosexual peers.
  • More than 39% of people considered a sexual minority used at least one illicit drug in the last year.
  • For more than 30% of them, their drug of choice was marijuana.
  • For more than 10% of them, their drug of choice was prescription pain relievers.
  • Cocaine, hallucinogens and prescription stimulants are also quite popular within the LGBT community.
  • Alcohol use is also prevalent among those in the LGBT nation.
  • Of those 18 and older in the LGBTQ population, 63.6% of them admitted to heavy or binge drinking.
  • This compares to 56.2% of the general population.
  • Percentages are comparable across all age groups.
  • More than 15% of those in the sexual minority have an alcohol use disorder, or illicit drug use disorder.
  • This compares to 7.8% of those in the sexual majority.

What do the LGBTQ+ Addiction Statistics Mean?

To put it simply, what these statistics mean is that there is a serious problem within the LGBT population.

These are individuals who are suffering from addiction at a much higher rate than the general population.

Each year, the number of LGBT people with addictions seems to grow.

It's time to do something about this problem.

What is lgbtq

What is the LBGTQ Definition?

First and foremost, it's helpful to explain the LGBTQ definition and what it means. There are also other definitions that should be explained. This community is so diverse. Understanding them as people aids in understanding their addiction patterns.

LGBTQ is defined as: lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer.

The LGBT Meaning Explained

Sometimes this group of people is referred to as LGBT. This means: lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.

It is a term that has been used since the 1990s. Initially, this group was referred to as simply, LGB. Over the years, various changes have taken place to allow for a more inclusive initialism.


One of the newer initialisms being seen is LGBTQQIAAP. This one can be quite confusing, and it's helpful to break it down.

  • L - Lesbian: Women who are attracted to women.
  • G - Gay: Men who are attracted to men.
  • B - Bisexual: Men and women who are attracted to both men and women.
  • T- Transgender: Anyone whose gender identity differs from their assigned sexual identity.
  • Q - Queer: An umbrella term for a non-straight person.
  • Q - Questioning: Anyone who questions their own gender identity.
  • I - Intersex: Someone born with both male and female features.
  • A - Asexual: Anyone who is not sexual attracted to other people.
  • A - Allies: Straight people who are strongly supportive for the LGBTQ community.
  • P - Pansexual: Anyone who does not take gender into account when attraction occurs.

As you can see, there are so many different ways to refer to this community of people. Their addiction treatment needs are just as varied.

There is definitely a connection between the LGBTQ nation and addiction. This is evident in the statistics we just discussed.

There is a disproportionately high rate of substance abuse among this particular group of people. This high rate only serves to threaten their health and well-being.

Some people believe that their addiction rates are so high because of a lack of health care. Others believe that poor addiction treatment services are to blame.

Both of these may be true, even in our progressive country of America. However, there also may be other factors as well.

Is it enough to blame poor and even incompetent health care and addiction treatment? Some say it is.

There is no doubt that this is a serious issue that needs to be considered. Members of the LBGTQIA population need a specialized approach to treatment.

Even so, there seem to be additional reasons why their addiction rates are so high.

If you are an addicted LGBTQ individual, you may identify with one or more of the following.

LGBTQI Individuals and Stress

According to Dr. Petros Levounis, Professor at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, stress is a major problem. Dr. Levounis is also an addiction specialist. He states that at least 33% of people with substance use disorders have underlying mental illnesses.

For many of these individuals - especially within the LGBT community - stress is at the heart of their addictions.

Increased stress is expected, considering the different problems the LGBTQ nation has to deal with. Stress can result from:
  • Having to constantly explain your relationship to others.
  • Feeling as though you're being stared at or talked about in public.
  • Dealing with discrimination for various reasons.
  • Encountering social prejudice.
  • Maneuvering through discriminatory laws, which are still in place today.

Stress plays a key role for the LGBTQI community when it comes to addiction.

Let's talk in more detail about where the stress can come from.

In the not-so-distant past, employment discrimination was commonplace for the LGBT community.

In 2012, it was legal in 29 states for these individuals to be denied employment or fired. Other forms of discrimination because of sexual orientation were also legal.

Fortunately, this has changed, as far as the laws in our country go. However, individual circumstances and situations still play a role in allowing it to continue.

Research shows that 43% of gay people have experienced workplace harassment and discrimination.

The same is true for 90% of people in the transgender community.

This type of threat poses serious problems for LGBT individuals. Many feel that they may constantly have to worry about their jobs. Their economic security is threatened regularly.

Of course, for many of these people, their concerns lie with being able to care for their families as well.

56% of gay people and 70% of transgender people report some form of housing discrimination.

This discrimination is based entirely on their sexual orientation. It can make it so difficult for them to maintain a solid family structure. It can also make it difficult for them to maintain stable employment and access healthcare.

Again, this type of discrimination is illegal, but that doesn't mean it doesn't take place. It does, and members of the LGBT community all over the U.S. are affected.

In 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage was legal. This meant that individual states were no longer permitted to ban same-sex marriage.

This was a great victory for gay rights activists. However, it did not do much to eradicate relationship discrimination at the local level.

An excellent example of this is seen within a family with two parents of the same gender. Their marriage is recognized by the Federal government as being legal. However, when taking their children to the doctor, or filling out school forms, discrimination is evident.

Quite often, same-sex parents have to explain their relationship unnecessarily to others. They have to alter forms that ask for a mother's name or a father's name when no such person is present.

This type of discrimination is taxing, emotionally. It frequently contributes to stress levels within the LGBTQIA community.

For many LGBT individuals, their stress develops from an internal struggle. This is often referred to as internalized homophobia.

Internalized homophobia means that someone has accepted the discrimination as a part of their identity. Concepts of sexual stigma become the norm in their minds.

This can result in self-loathing thoughts and behaviors, which easily lead to substance abuse. For many, using substances may seem to be the only way they can cope.

They may even view drugs and alcohol as the only way they can accept themselves. This is problematic for a number of reasons.

Drugs and alcohol should not be needed in order to feel comfortable as a person. This way of thinking only increases the potential for drug abuse, alcohol abuse and addiction.

Fortunately, so many people in the United States have put discriminatory ways and practices behind them. However, this is not the case for everyone.

Heterosexism is still quite prevalent in America.

Wikipedia defines heterosexism as, “…a system of attitudes, bias, and discrimination in favor of opposite-sex sexuality and relationships.”

This includes the belief that heterosexual relationships are the only norm, and therefore, they are superior.

This is a concept that most LGBTQ+ individuals have to deal with daily. It can lead to negative self-perceptions. It causes feelings of shame and contempt.

It should be no wonder that so many people within the LGBT community turn to substances to cope.

Self-Medicating Among LGBTQ+ Individuals

Self-medication is something that many addicts do regularly. They use drugs and alcohol as a way to help themselves feel better.

Self-medication is prevalent within the LGBTQ+ community. Typically, marijuana is the drug of choice for those who wish to self-medicate. However, alcohol and other drugs can suffice as well.

The struggle with anxiety, stress and depression is so real for members of this group of people. Some may not realize where these feelings are coming from. They only know that drugs or alcohol make them go away; even if just for a short time.

Types of Substances the LGBTQ Population Frequently Uses

Research has shown that there are some substances that are more attractive to the LGBT community than others. Also, there are some substances that are more available to them than others.

This has to do with a number of factors. Namely:
  • Whether or not the substance is legal
  • The accessibility of the substance
  • Its acceptance within the community as a whole
  • The perceived safety of the substance
  • Past personal history of addiction or substance abuse

Alcohol addiction and alcoholism are widespread within the LGBTQ community.

Alcohol is available to anyone who is old enough to purchase it. Also, bars are places where many LGBT people feel comfortable and at home. This can lead them to spend a great deal of time there.

When this happens, consuming alcohol is to be expected. Quite often, large amounts of alcohol are consumed at one time. This leads to many LGBTQ individuals who become alcoholics.

Alcohol is socially acceptable. Because it is so easily obtained, it's also perceived to be safe. Some may even think of it as one of the safest substances to use.

These facts alone make alcohol one of the most dangerous substances to use.

A growing number of states have legalized marijuana. Many of these states have higher populations of LGBTQ individuals.

This means that being an LGBTQ+ person and using marijuana often go hand-in-hand.

For so many in the LGBT community, their marijuana addictions start with one use. It might be a simple experiment with the drug. Quite often, that one use eventually develops into an addiction.

Experts believe that this is largely because of social pressure and identity issues. It can also be the result of untreated emotional trauma because of widespread prejudice.

Marijuana provides LGBT individuals with a temporary escape. It helps them to ignore their emotional pain. It helps them to cope with the pressure of being a member of this community.

Marijuana can even help them with reducing the fear that often accompanies coming out, or simply just being LGBT.

Anxiety is a very real concern about members of the LGBTQIA nation.

For many of them, the stress they encounter daily leads to instances of anxiety disorders. Some experience panic attacks regularly because of stress and worry.

Sedatives and tranquilizers are frequently prescribed to help with these conditions. LGBT individuals may use them more often than others. They may also do so without realizing their addictive potential.

Misusing sedatives and tranquilizers long enough can lead to an addiction to these drugs. Quite often, LGBT individuals may inadvertently form addictions to them. They may take more of them than they should, or take them in contraindicated ways.

Cocaine is a drug that can seem quite attractive to members of the LGBTQ nation.

In one study, gay and bisexual men were surveyed regarding their cocaine use over a 12-month period of time. It was discovered that they used cocaine for a variety of reasons. These reasons included:

  • To avoid experiencing unpleasant emotions
  • To avoid experiencing physical discomfort
  • To experience pleasant encounters with others
  • To avoid conflict with others
  • To avoid social pressure from others

Avoiding unpleasant emotions was the dominant reason for using cocaine in this study.

Cocaine is a stimulant drug. It's often chosen as a way to counteract the symptoms of depression.

What many people don't realize is that its effects are quite short-lived. Eventually, cocaine can make depression much worse. It also leads to addiction very quickly; even more so than other drugs do.

What Else Drives Addictions within the LGBTQ Nation?

There are other reasons why many in the LGBTQ community turn to addiction as a way to cope. We've touched on these briefly, but let's look at them in more detail.

These problems are more common than not among LGBT individuals.

Co-Occurring Disorders

Addictions rarely occur all on their own. They are frequently accompanied by another condition that contributes to them. These accompanying conditions are referred to as co-occurring disorders.

  • A co-occurring disorder is a mental health problem that often goes along with addictions.
  • According to SAMHSA, In 2013, 20.2 million adults had a substance use disorder.
  • Of these individuals, 7.9 million of them had both a mental health condition and a substance use disorder.

Co-occurring disorders happen for a number of different reasons. No one is immune to developing them, but members of the LGBTQ community have a much higher risk. This is due to the fact that they struggle with so many issues, which we named above.

When someone develops a mental health condition, using substances can help with symptoms. However, the help that is received rarely lasts for very long.

Quite often, people with co-occurring disorders will find that substances only work for a short time. After a while, they experience breakthrough symptoms, or their symptoms simply return.

Still, this does not stop people from at least attempting to medicate co-occurring disorders with drugs and alcohol.

There are several types of co-occurring disorders that are more common than others. This is especially true among the LGBT population.

Some of the more common co-occurring disorders include:

Fortunately, all of these conditions can be treated. It really doesn't even matter which condition occurred first.

Experts believe that most co-occurring disorders were present before the addiction. However, this is not the case for everyone.

Either way, co-occurring disorders need to be treated at the same time as the addiction. Otherwise, the individual is very likely to not experience recovery.

Additional Health Issues and Challenges

Members of the LGBTQ community also have special health challenges. These frequently occur to those who also have addictions.

LGBT individuals have a much higher risk of sexually transmitted diseases, HIV/AIDS and hepatitis than others. This is largely due to needle sharing, and promiscuous and risky behaviors due to the addiction.

Unfortunately, LGBT stereotypes will often keep individuals from seeking medical treatment. This means that many conditions can go undiagnosed for years. This also allows instances of addiction to be easily hidden away from medical detection.

Not every drug and alcohol rehab center is able to help LGBTQIA individuals. This is because many lack the knowledge and expertise that go along with helping this particular group.

Addiction treatment for LGBT individuals should follow the same path as treatment for heterosexuals. However, there may be some variations.

It is especially important for therapists to be able to recognize co-occurring disorders. Other contributing factors for addiction need to be recognized as well.

LGBT individuals face discrimination, prejudice and a host of other problems every single day. To ignore these issues is to ignore the foundation the addiction is built upon.

The right drug and alcohol rehab program understands the importance of talking about these issues. Other coping methods need to be developed as alternatives to turning to alcohol and drugs.

Even today, homophobia is a way of thinking that pervades American culture. While there has been so much done to change this, the battle is far from being over.

Because of homophobia, many LGBTQ individuals would rather not seek addiction treatment. Their fear of prejudice may just be too great because the culture has taught them to expect it.

LGBT people may worry about being with other patients who don't agree with their sexuality. It's difficult enough to meet a group of peers for the first time and work with them in a recovery setting. To add the uncertainty of homophobia can make the thought of it unbearable.

Also, the fact is that many addiction treatment centers fail to train their staff members appropriately. A lot of them don't recognize the needs of this particular population of people. They don't know what contributes to their addiction problems. Therefore, they're not equipped to treat them.

When members of the LGBT community feel alienated in this way, it's expected for addiction rates to rise. It's obvious that they have done just that.

Drug and Alcohol Treatment Options Available to LGBTQI People

On the other hand, there are alcohol and drug rehab centers that do cater to the needs of LGBT people. There are those who value the members of this population.

This is so incredibly fortunate, considering the fact that their addiction numbers are increasing.

Not every addiction treatment option is right for everyone. People have varying needs. This is why it's so important to know what options are available to you if you choose to utilize them.

Drug and alcohol detox is often the very first step in addiction treatment for most people. This is because recovering from addiction is so hard; largely due to withdrawal.

Addictions like alcohol, certain prescription drugs, and heroin all benefit greatly from detoxification. It is a process that can reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms. It also eliminates certain withdrawal symptoms, thus reducing the risk of health complications.

Anyone who identifies as LGBTQQIAAP should strongly consider alcohol and drug detox. This is a process that will rid the body of toxins associated with substance use. It will also address the physical aspect of the addiction, which is so important.

Many times, inpatient treatment is necessary for those with addictions. In many ways, this might be especially true for members of the LGBTQQIAAP community.

Inpatient drug and alcohol rehab offers extensive supervision and monitoring. There are those who need this type of support during recovery.

Consider the fact that LGBT people experience significant struggles that are unique to them. Their circumstances often make them extremely vulnerable to relapsing back into substance abuse.

Because of this, an inpatient treatment center might be the best option. During this type of addiction treatment, patients receive a high level of care. They participate in a number of different methods of treatment. Their treatment plans are detailed and personalized according to their needs, as well.

There are cases in which outpatient addiction treatment might be appropriate. However, this is usually best suited for someone who has gone through an inpatient program.

Outpatient drug rehab and alcohol rehab involves regular appointments with an addiction therapist. These appointments take place on a schedule that may be adjusted periodically.

Many outpatient rehab programs are very good. Some include group therapy, while others do not. The ones that don't will frequently encourage patients to attend outside support groups.

LGBTQ individuals with newer or milder addictions might do well in outpatient treatment. However, most people find that a higher level of care is needed.

Intensive outpatient treatment (IOP program) is a step above traditional outpatient treatment. It is a step below inpatient care.

Many people prefer IOP programs because they offer more support and more flexibility. For instance, IOP programs are done on an outpatient basis. This allows people to continue to work and live with their families at their homes.

An IOP program might not be the appropriate type of treatment for many in the LGBT community. At least, not as the first step in addiction treatment. For a lot of LGBTQ individuals, their jobs and even their families may be sources of stress for them. This could mean that continuing to work and live at home could only work against them in recovery.

Even so, everyone is different. It's important for each person's situation to be discussed prior to recommending treatment. Some LGBT individuals do very well in IOP programs. Others need to be removed from the sources of their stress for treatment to be most effective.

Occasionally, there are addictions that are so severe that a 30-day stay isn't enough time to recover. This actually happens all the time within the LGBT community. In these cases, long-term rehab or residential treatment is often recommended.

Long-term rehab offers many benefits to members of the LGBTQQIAAP community. It may allow them to:

  • Escape from a potentially dangerous home situation
  • Learn how to live day-to-day without relying on an addiction
  • Understand the cause of their addictions
  • Be in a positive environment for an extended period of time
  • Immerse themselves within a recovery-centered atmosphere

Long-term rehab centers are all very different from each other. Many have staff members that are well-versed in treating addictions within the LGBTQ community.

Patients are able to stay at these facilities for quite some time. Some programs allow them to stay for up to six months. Others may go for 90 days, or for a time period that has been predetermined for each patient.

Outpatient support groups like Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous are excellent sources of help. Even so, they're not always right for someone who is new to addiction recovery.

These support groups have been around for a very long time. Over the last several decades, they have been instrumental in the recoveries of so many people. However, meetings are only held on a weekly basis, and there is no therapy offered. Because of this, they are best suited for after drug and alcohol rehab is over.

Also, it's important to note that these support groups are sensitive to the needs of LGBT individuals. They will always find a place where they will be accepted and included.

Members of the LGBTQ nation frequently encounter barriers to addiction treatment. We have discussed these in great detail. It is because of these barriers that they may attempt quitting the use of drugs and alcohol alone first.

Cold turkey quitting is actually quite common among addicts. Some people will use this method multiple times; always returning to substance abuse. For LGBTQ individuals, this method of recovery may be even more dangerous.

This particular group of people has a high probability of relapsing back into substance use. This is because of all the challenges they face, and because they truly do need professional support.

For someone who relapses back into drug or alcohol use, that person reinforces their own addiction. They also put themselves at a high risk for overdosing when they go back to drugs or alcohol.

The dangers of quitting alcohol and drugs abruptly should not be ignored. It is extremely dangerous to stop using on one's own, and it should always be avoided.

When a member of the LGBTQ community goes to rehab, that person receives a detailed treatment plan.

It is important to note that some rehab facilities offer standard treatment plans to treat addiction. For many, there is little variation. This is not the proper way to help someone with an addiction.

LGBTQI individuals will find that the best addiction treatment centers personalize their treatment plans. This means that each patient receives the type of treatment they need. The following are some examples.

Personal Counseling

Individual counseling sessions are often the foundation of addiction treatment. For many LGBTQ individuals, the most healing is found within individual counseling sessions.

Addiction treatment counselors are highly trained on the issues members of the LGBT nation face. They can easily recognize co-occurring disorders and are able to offer various types of treatment.

Counseling is one of the most rewarding parts of addiction treatment for so many LGBTQI individuals.

Group Therapy and Treatment

Group therapy is also very rewarding. Peer counseling has been known to be helpful in addiction treatment for a very long time.

Many LGBT individuals face discrimination and prejudice from their peers on a daily basis. This can lead them to avoid interacting with people. It can also lead to the development of co-occurring disorders, as you know.

Group therapy can be an instrumental part of the healing process for addiction. It allows LGBT individuals to suddenly be a part of a supportive group of their peers. This might be a concept that is completely foreign to them.

The 12 Step Program of Recovery

The 12 Step program of recovery is very popular within many addiction treatment programs. It guides patients through 12 different steps that aid in the recovery process.

This is the same 12 Step program that is followed during AA and NA meetings.

Family Therapy

So many LGBT individuals don't have supportive families. For a lot of them, their sexual orientations play a role in this. For others, their addictions were the driving force behind their broken relationships.

Either way, family therapy is a very important part of the recovery process. Therapists will meet with patients and their family members. This allows families to be a part of their recovery and addiction treatment.

Any issues that they have between them can be brought up during family therapy meetings. These issues need to be brought into the open and dealt with.

Assisting Your LGBTQ+ Loved One with Addiction Recovery

You may be someone who has an addicted loved one who is a member of the LGBTQ+ community. You may be at a loss for what you can do to help.

So many people find themselves in this situation, and you are not alone.

More than anything, you want to be able to help your addicted loved one. You want to know the right words to say to help him or her recover. However, you really don't even know where to begin.

You may want to think about having a discussion with your loved one about treatment. Be prepared that this discussion may be met with hostility and anger.

You should stay calm while you're talking, even if you feel nervous. It can be scary to bring something like this up. However, prepare yourself with information about the dangers of addiction. You can talk about various issues within the LGBTQ+ community that you think may be contributing.

If your loved one is willing, you can suggest treatment, and even talk about options. If they're not willing, you may need to consider a different approach.

An intervention might be the next step you need to take.

If you have talked with your LGBTQI loved one about the addiction, they might not listen to you. They may even promise to change, but then not follow through. If this happens, an intervention can make such a different.

Many people agree to get addiction treatment following an intervention. This might be the case for your loved one as well.

It would be wonderful if recovering from an addiction meant never using again. Unfortunately, that's not always the case. Relapses do happen.

If you relapse after going through drug and alcohol rehab, reporting it is so important. You may need to re-enter your addiction treatment program. Even if you don't, you still need support to get back on track.

LGBTQIA Addiction Treatment is Available for Those in Need

LGBTQIA drug and alcohol rehab programs offer hope to anyone with an addiction.

Quite often, LGBT individuals live in a world where it seems as though hope is lost. They may constantly be disappointed in their day to day lives. They may struggle within their social circle, at work, and even within their own families. For them, every day is a constant, negative reminder of their sexual orientations and identities.

Also, they may battle:
  • Feelings of inadequacy on the job.
  • Feeling as though they haven't lived up to their families' expectations.
  • Worry about something bad happening to them or someone they love.
  • Fear of what the future holds for them.
  • Concern for their health and mental well-being.

These issues can go on for a long time. They can become so problematic that addiction seems to be the only answer.

Perhaps this is how you feel as well.

You may be a member of the LGBT community. You may have been battling an addiction for years. You may not have been aware of the issues that lie at the heart of it; but it is a battle, nonetheless.

Fortunately, there is something you can do to get help.

At Northpoint Washington, our staff members are highly trained in the area of LGBT drug rehab and alcohol rehab. We know the struggles you face. We know that the issues at the heart of your addiction are very real.

Most of all, we know the best ways to treat them.

There's no reason for you to continue on in your addiction. The right kind of help is available to assist you with your recovery. To do that, we'll work with you to get to the root cause of your addiction. We'll guide you through every single step along the road to recovering. However, you do need to be the one to take the first step.

Have you found this LGBTQIA addiction rehab and recovery guide to be helpful for you? Do you have additional questions you'd like to have answered? If so, please contact us.

Talk to a Rehab Specialist

Our admissions coordinators are here to help you get started with treatment the right way. They'll verify your health insurance, help set up travel arrangements, and make sure your transition into treatment is smooth and hassle-free.

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