As a disease, addiction affects a wide variety of individuals, virtually everyone on the demographic spectrum. Individuals of all ages, genders, ethnic or racial group, socioeconomic background, political affiliation, and even religion have developed addictions to dangerous, mind-altering substances. Nobody ever intends to become addicted, but rather most individuals begin to abuse substances while believing that they will be able to maintain control of their substance abuse. Over time, the bodies of substance abusers adapt to the frequent presence of alcohol and drugs, even coming to rely on those substances for natural functions and processes. This is how physical dependency occurs and is why individuals who have become addicted experience withdrawal symptoms only hours after their last dose.
In developing more effective ways to treat or even prevent addiction, researchers continue to study the disease in order to gain a more thorough understanding of the underlying processes and factors that contribute to its development. One of the areas of frequent study includes looking at various groups who have shown to be at an elevated risk of addiction, which is determined by finding the demographics that experience addiction and receive treatment at rates higher than the population’s average. Of the various addiction risk groups that exist, there have been a number of implications for the spike in addiction rates in the LGBT community. As such, the following will be a concise discussion of addiction in the LGBT community, detailing some of the effects that the disease has had on the LGBT community as a whole.
Why Does the LGBT Community Experience Elevated Rates of Addiction?
People can become addicted to alcohol and drugs for a number of reasons. One of the most common reasons for the development of a substance abuse habit or addiction is due to the tendency for individuals to self-medicate, taking it upon themselves to use the substances they have available to treat and alleviate mental and/or physical pain they may be experiencing. This is particularly relevant to the LGBT community because individuals who self-identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered have often experienced lifelong discrimination, victimization, and harassment. Even during their youths, these individuals are often bullied by their peers and made to feel bad about themselves for being so-called sexual minorities, which is terminology that refers to groups of individuals who sexual orientations distinguish them from the majority; the majority of the population identifies as heterosexual with most individuals feeling like this fact makes heterosexuality normal while being a sexual minority is abnormal, a concept called heteronormativity.
Associating the LGBT Lifestyle with Hedonism & Substance Abuse
Due to the experience of minority stress, sexual minorities have proven to be more likely to turn to self-destructive methods of coping, including the abuse of alcohol and drugs. According to statistics, individuals who are considered sexual minorities develop addictions at a rate between two and three times greater than the population average. And not only are these individuals more likely to abuse mind-altering substances in order to cope with discrimination and minority stress, but these individuals are often targeted by the marketing efforts of alcohol and tobacco companies in places where these individuals often feel safe and accepted such as in nightclubs and bars. As a result, the common perception is that LGBT individuals are frequently substance abusers as a result of their sexual abnormality. In fact, many individuals feel that homosexuality is a form of deviance and would, therefore, occur alongside alcohol and drug abuse in LGBT individuals. Studies have found that, despite recent progress, perceptions of LGBT individuals are widely negative with many individuals still assuming that the majority of LGBT individuals suffer from AIDS or HIV, frequently abuse dangerous drugs, and are even sexual predators.
How Addiction & Negative Perceptions Have Harmed the LGBT Community
In short, the elevated rate of addiction in the LGBT community has reinforced the negative perception that much of the general public seems to have about individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender. As a result, LGBT individuals have become very unlikely to admit to their addictions and seek treatment for fear of being stigmatized even more than they already are. Additionally, many LGBT addicts are under the assumption that healthcare providers are uninterested in providing quality care to sexual minorities due to their own prejudices, leaving the LGBT community feeling like they’re unable to receive care even if they wanted it. Therefore, there’s an element of self-fulfilling prophecy at play with public perceptions discouraging the LGBT community from seeking treatment, which is why rates of addiction among sexual minorities remains so high.
Let Recovery Hub Help You Regain a Life of Fulfillment
Although addiction affects virtually everyone no matter their sexual orientation, the LGBT community has suffered greatly from both the elevated addiction rates and the negative public perceptions of sexual minorities. Fortunately, there are quality treatment options available for LGBT individuals as well as anyone else who suffers from chemical dependence. If you or someone you love would benefit from learning more about recovery, call Recovery Hub at 1-888-220-4352. Let one of our recovery specialists match you to the treatments that best address your individual recovery needs. With one phone call, begin the journey back to a life of health and fulfillment.