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Addiction Risk Factors in the LGBTQIA+ Community

Recovery Centers of America

Authored by Recovery Centers of America

LGBTQIA+ individuals face many different challenges and difficulties compared to their heterosexual peers and may turn to drugs and alcohol to self-medicate. These individuals may be afraid to come out to friends and family regarding their sexuality and hiding their true selves in fear of not being accepted.

There have been many improvements in for the LGBTQIA+ community in present day, especially with the legalization of gay marriage in 2015. However, people of certain generations, primarily Baby Boomers and Gen Xers, may still be hesitant to come out as LGBTQIA+ to their friends or family. This is because acceptance was not as common or prevalent as they were growing up, compared to Millennials and Gen Z.

 “Younger people are more likely to actually live as LGBTQIA+ and to identify that way because they are growing up in a time when it’s more acceptable to acknowledge those feelings and to act on them,” said Kerith Conron, Research Director at the Williams Institute.

The evolution of gay bars during the Stonewall Riots in 1960s may be another contributing factor when it comes to alcohol addiction. As these are still popular gathering spots, some may feel these types of bars are the only “safe space” in their community. Some communities may not offer other places for LGBTQ+ individuals to meet or feel welcome. And even worse, those who live in more conservative towns may resort to alcohol or drugs if there is a lack of support or activities in their communities.

LGBTQIA+ individuals are also prone to developing anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts. They may also have experienced trauma or abuse at some point in their lives. Therefore, there is a greater chance of being diagnosed with these disorders alongside addiction. When seeking treatment for addiction, it is best to find a program that treats co-occurring disorders. When a person is treated for both an addiction and the underlying cause, the chances of achieving and maintaining recovery are higher.

Who Makes Up The Population and LGBTQ Substance Abuse Statistics

  • The U.S. LGBTQIA+ population accounts for approximately 11.3 million people.
  • Women are more likely to identify as LBGTQ+ compared to men in the United States. There has been a rise in more women identifying as bisexual.
  • The self-identifying LGBTQIA+ population also skews younger. Only 23% are age 50 or older, compared with 47% of non-LGBT adults, and 56% of LGBTQIA+ adults are under age 35 compared with 28% for the non-LGBTQ population.
  • People who identify as gay or lesbian are more than twice as likely as those who identify as heterosexual to have a severe substance use disorder.
  • People who identify as bisexual are three times a likely to have a substance use disorder.
  • Those who are unsure of how to identify are five times as likely to have a substance use disorder compared to heterosexual people.

How RCA Supports the LGBTQ+ Community:

Recovery Centers of America has a caring, compassionate clinical team who are provided comprehensive training to provide knowledge about patients part of the LGBTQIA+ community. Our team understands the difference between gender and sexuality, binary and non-binary, proper pronoun usage and varying sexual classifications.  

Other Recovery Centers of America locations provide treatment more specific to the LGBTQIA+ community. Recovery Centers of America at Danvers located in Danvers, Massachusetts and Recovery Centers of America at Capital Region in Waldorf, Maryland offer Acceptance, an LBGTQIA+ addiction recovery program. Acceptance addresses many important issues such as coping with identity, facing stereotypes and finding the right sponsor.

It is our intent to make everyone feel safe and free to be themselves. Here is what some of our patients have to say about Acceptance:

“It gives me a sense of being a part of something.” – Lexi

“This group brings me daily joy and it’s great to socialize with other units and meet new people. I feel at home here.” – Brian

“Eye opening – It makes me feel very comfortable and I love hearing different perspectives.” – Mai

It is RCA’s intent to make everyone feel safe and free to be themselves while in treatment. If you or someone you know is struggling with drugs or alcohol, please do not hesitate to give us a call at 1-800-RECOVERY. We answer calls and admit patients into treatment 24/7, 365.


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