Handle with Care: The Importance of Tailor-Made Addiction Treatment for the LGBTQ+ Community

By Christa Banister


Considering how complex addiction is and what causes it in the first place, it probably seems like a no-brainer that one size doesn’t necessarily fit all when it comes to treatment options. But as much as that sentiment makes sense on paper, modern healthcare practices don’t always reflect that reality, particularly in the LGBTQ+ community, where drug use is two to three times higher than the general population.

Breaking it down further, while roughly nine percent of the general population abuses various substances, it’s estimated between 20 to 30 percent of gay and transgender people do the same. It is also estimated gay and transgender people not only smoke tobacco up to 200 percent more than their heterosexual and non-transgender peers, but roughly 25 percent of the LGBTQ+ community also regularly abuses alcohol, which is between 15 and 20 percent higher than the general population.

Use of illicit drugs, particularly marijuana, amphetamines and heroin, are also significantly higher among homosexual men. For example, it’s been reported that men who have sex with other men are 12.2 times more likely to use amphetamines, 9.5 times more likely to use heroin and 3.5 times more likely to use marijuana than men who do not have sex with men.


Cause and Effect

The wild variance in the numbers can be attributed to a variety of factors that include a greater level of stress that comes from discrimination and being misunderstood, not to mention social prejudice on the job which has been reported by 43 percent of gay people and 90 percent of transgender individuals, the lack of pertinent healthcare solutions that specifically address the needs of their community and basic validation of their same-sex relationships and varied family structures in more conservative areas. Because there’s still a deficiency of places in which the LGBTQ+ community feels safe to socialize without fear of judgment — or even worse, hate crimes, many alcohol and tobacco companies have exploited this discrepancy by making their products more readily available in these places.

While same-sex marriage was legalized in all 50 states back in 2015, healthcare hasn’t quite caught up to meet these couples’ needs. While there are more than 450 LGBTQ+-friendly hospitals in 47 states, most facilities don’t have addiction programs. And while the number of accommodating hospitals has increased, the bulk are located in larger cities, which leaves behind so many living in rural communities, where the struggle is very real as well.

Another troubling reality centers on the LGBTQ+-tailored treatment itself. The most recent research indicates very few programs actually have specialized services, and if they did, most for the LGBTQ+ community aren’t covered by insurance or all that accessible for the masses with the majority located in New York and California.


Meeting the LGBTQ+ Community where they are

Understanding the unique needs of the LGBTQ+community — socially, personally and psychologically is essential for individuals seeking treatment, not to mention their loved ones cheering them on. In addition to medically supported detox, rehab along with therapy and support from trusted professionals, treatment for the LGBTQ+ individuals may involve dealing with anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts and guilt that often go hand in hand from one’s gender identity or sexual orientation. They may be dealing with accepting identity or coming out to family and friends. They may struggle with peer pressure that’s common in the club scene or find themselves facing other mental health concerns.

If you or someone you love is looking for an accepting, knowledgeable and safe environment with comprehensive clinical services to address addiction or any mental health needs, don’t hesitate to reach out to the caring professionals at Valley Hospital at 602-755-7008. https://valleyhospital-phoenix.com/