Drug Abuse Among LGBT Youths

Gay man in group

The disease of addiction has ravaged every square inch of the demographic spectrum. Individuals of all ages, ethnicities, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, socioeconomic background, and geographic regions have fallen prey to the addictive power of alcohol and drugs. Although virtually anyone can become addicted to drugs, there are some populations that have shown to be at greater risk for the development of drug addiction than others. For instance, adolescents and youths have been a major cause for concern due to being at elevated risk for drug addiction. Inquisitive and curious youths commonly experiment with alcohol and drugs like marijuana and prescription pills, opening themselves to the possibility of chemical dependency. However, there’s a subgroup within the population of youths that have been identified as being at even higher risk than youths in general. Youths who self-identify as being lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or transgendered are one of the highest risk groups for drug addiction that exist today. The following will be a concise discussion concerning drug abuse among LGBT youths with a focus on understanding why it is that young sexual minorities are experiencing drug addiction at such high rates and how they can be treated.

Why is Substance Abuse so High Among LGBT Youths?

gay woman

In Westernized societies, adolescence is characterized as a time of immense mental and emotional turmoil. The body is growing, developing, and changing while each adolescent is experiencing psychological growth in the form of maturation. All of this can cause somewhat of an identity crisis with many youths being unsure of who they are. The uncertainty of adolescence is why this becomes a period of youth experimentation, which is how individuals discover their likes and dislikes, skills and abilities, preferences, and so on. However, the unfortunate consequence of such uncertainty is that many adolescents feel insecure, suffer from low self-esteem, and are particularly sensitive to the thoughts, opinions, and judgements of others.

For youths who identify as being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered (LGBT), the turmoil and uncertainty of adolescence is compounded. A major part of why the experience of adolescence is more intense for LGBT youths is due to the ridicule that they experience from their peers as well as overall society. Due to being considered sexual minorities, LGBT youths and teens are often harassed—verbally and even physically—while being told by peers and the media that their sexual preferences are wrong or immoral, making them feel them less human and unworthy of empathy. Research has found that many LGBT youths begin to deal with homophobia, discrimination, and victimization at a very young age, following them through their teen years and even into adulthood in many cases. This can result in internalized or self-directed homophobia as LGBT teens begin to hate themselves for their sexual preferences. Moreover, the result of being the object of such animosity and resentment has been found to cause many LGBT youths to begin behaving in dangerous, self-destructive ways, which often includes smoking cigarettes and abusing alcohol and drugs.

The Minority Stress Model

By definition, a minority group is a small subset of the population consisting of individuals who differ from the majority in one or more ways, which can include age differences, ethnic  and religious differences, or differences in sexual orientation among many others. Individuals who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered represent a specific minority group, but due to the nature of the characteristic that distinguishes them from the rest of the population, this specific minority group is what’s often referred to as a sexual minority. Similarly, LGBT youths are sexual minority group that differs from the overall population both in terms of their sexual self-identification and their age. Researchers have been studying the mental and physical health effects experienced by sexual minorities such as LGBT youths in the hope of identifying how the experience of lifelong discrimination, harassment, and victimization affects one’s health and wellness. Called the minority stress model, minority stress is the specific term used to refer to the stress one experiences as a direct result of living in a hostile, homophobic culture and being the object of discrimination, victimization, and maltreatment.

Rates of Drug Addiction Among LGBT Youths


Due to the extremely high minority stress they experience, estimates put the rate of drug addiction at between 190 percent and 400 percent higher for LGBT youths than for hetersexual youths, which varies according to the given variables. For instance, while the overall LGBT youth population experiences drug addiction at rates that are 190 percent higher than for heterosexual youths, bisexual youths and female LGBT youths are actually 340 percent and 400 percent more likely to become addicted to drugs than their heterosexual counterparts, respectively. However, there are a number of addiction treatment programs available that address the specific need of youth addicts as well as LGBT individuals. For LGBT youths suffering from addiction, there are numerous recovery options that are available and can be utilized so that they can get their lives back on track.

Return to a Life of Health & Happiness with Recovery Hub

While there are certain populations that are at an elevated risk for the development of an addiction, anyone could potentially become an addict. Fortunately, there are numerous treatments and programs available to help individuals overcome chemical dependency. If you or someone you know if suffering from alcoholism or drug addiction and would benefit from learning more about treatment, call Recovery Hub at 1-888-220-4352. With a free consultation and assessment, you could be on your way to living a life of happiness and fulfillment once again.

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