Substance abuse is a slippery slope. It often starts as a phase, but as the frequency of abuse increases and the body becomes dependent on mind-altering and chemical substances, individuals find themselves addicted. After becoming addicted to alcohol or drugs, individuals must imbibe their substances of choice throughout each day in order to keep withdrawal symptoms at bay. In fact, it’s often the fear of intense withdrawal that keeps many addicts in the throes of active addiction for years or even decades.
The disease of addiction affects individuals from all over the demographic spectrum; no matter their age, gender, religion, socioeconomic level, or sexual orientation, countless individuals have fallen prey to the destructive power of alcohol and drug addiction. Unfortunately, research has found that certain demographics tends to experience addiction at elevated rates, especially minority groups that frequently experience discrimination or harassment. As a result, addiction recovery centers have begun to offer programming that incorporates treatments that address the susceptibility of these minority groups and meeting their particular needs. In order to identify the best of the demographically-oriented programs—such as those offered for members of the LGBT community—it’s important to understand why these individuals are at an elevated risk of addiction and what their particular recovery needs tend to be.
Why is the Addiction Rate So High in the LGBT Community?
Many experts in the fields of psychology and sociology have sought to understand the experiences of members of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) community. With all the changes in the political atmosphere lately, it’s increasingly important to understand how individuals’ experiences as part of a larger society can be influential in their thought processes and behaviors.
Recent studies have found that minority groups like the LGBT community experience elevated rates of addiction compared to the national average; while approximately one in ten individuals in the United States suffers from addiction to alcohol or drugs, it’s estimated that between two and three of every ten members of the LGBT community are suffering from alcohol or drug dependency, which is two to three times higher than the national average. It’s thought that the experience of daily stress due to the stigma associated with homosexuality—considered a form of minority stress, or stress shared by individuals in a shared demographic—makes these individuals more susceptible to substance abuse, which becomes a way of alleviating these feelings of alienation or due to being harassed.
Meeting the Recovery Needs of LGBT Individuals
According to research, the elevated rate of alcohol and drug addiction among members of the LGBT community can be attributed to three factors: the discrimination and prejudice that LGBT individuals experience in the areas of employment, relationship recognition, and many other areas; the lack of competent health care for LGBT individuals discourages them from seeking medical or recovery services; the targeted marketing efforts of alcohol and tobacco companies usually exploit the connection between homosexuality and nightlife. As such, these represent some of the major recovery needs of LGBT individuals who suffer from addiction.
Addicts in the LGBT community need an atmosphere of acceptance and encouragement, which will allow them to lower their defensive guards and focus on rehabilitation. Due to a lifetime of discrimination and harassment, many LGBT addicts will self-medicate instinctively, taking refuge in intoxication; however, an accepting environment will allow them to begin the process of overcoming those compulsions. Moreover, an addiction treatment program intended for LGBT individuals shows them that the physicians and recovery professionals understand their perspective and shared needs rather than shoehorning them through programming that doesn’t address the profound effects of minority stress. Additionally, recovery from alcohol and drug addiction for an LGBT individual should include helping them to overcome the convention that those who are homosexual or transgender must spend a lot of time socializing in nightclubs; alternately, LGBT individuals in recovery need to learn how to communicate without the lubrication of mind-altering substances.
What LGBT Addiction Treatment Programs Should Offer
High-quality addiction treatment programs for LGBT individuals recognize the particular needs of these individuals, incorporating them into the recovery curricula. An important offering for an LGBT addiction treatment program is sufficient counseling and psychotherapy, which should focus on addressing common homosexual, bisexual, and transgender issues as well as how to overcome discrimination and harassment. The therapists and counselors offering these treatments should have a demonstrated expertise in working with members of the LGBT community to ensure the psychotherapy is of the highest quality and provides the most benefit. Self-acceptance and empowerment are essential parts of psychotherapy for LGBT individuals as they can sometimes be in denial or misunderstanding of their sexual orientations and other aspects of their identities.
Moreover, these individuals require a number of important relapse prevention skills in order to sustain sobriety in a culture that, despite recent progress, still contains much intolerance. Specific counseling and skills-building sessions might include helping individuals to overcome employment and workplace discrimination or rejection by loved ones without resorting to alcohol or drug abuse. Substance abuse often manifests as a coping mechanisms, especially among those who experience minority stress, which is why it’s important to offer a number of positive ways of coping with stress and adversity as part of an LGBT recovery curriculum. And since many LGBT individuals develop or suffer from comorbid (co-occurring) disorders such as depression or anxiety, there should be special attention paid to the identification and treatment of secondary diagnoses as part of dual-diagnosis support in LGBT addiction treatment programs.
Find the Right LGBT Program Today
Fortunately, a rising number of LGBT-specific addiction treatment programs are available to curb the elevated rates of alcohol and drug addiction in the LGBT community. However, there is programming available for many other demographic groups as well, such as gender-specific and faith-based rehabilitation programs. If you or someone you love is suffering from addiction and would like to learn about LGBT recovery or other types of programming, call Recovery Hub today at 888-220-4352. One of our experienced recovery specialists is ready to help match you to the program that will best meet your recovery needs. Call today to begin the journey to a sober, healthy life.