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There is no evidence that sexual orientation affects an individual’s mental health or physical chances of developing addiction. However LGBT individuals are more likely to experience certain risk factors for drug and alcohol abuse due to their environment, social life, mental health, family history and other key areas.
Contributors to Addiction
Many factors play a part in the development of addiction. Some contributing factors include the following:
- Family history. If addiction runs in your family, you are more likely to develop a substance abuse problem. This is a risk factor that impacts both gay and straight individuals.
- Environment. A person’s home environment plays a large factor in motivating or not motivating a person to try drugs or alcohol. Job stress, money struggles or an unstable family life can all contribute to substance abuse. A homophobic community or a family that doesn’t accept an alternative sexual identity can cause low self-image and long-lasting guilt. Many adult LGBT individuals outwardly reject the “values” of these conservative communities, embracing an alternative lifestyle that may include heavy drinking and drug use.
- Mental health. Co-occurring mental health issues can contribute to a person’s chances of developing addiction. While anti-gay propaganda portrays homosexuality as a curable mental illness, there is no evidence to back this up. Attempts at conversion therapy or the suppression of homosexuality do not increase in heterosexual feelings but rather increase feelings of shame and anxiety about an individual’s natural sexual identity. These feelings can cause depression and other psychological issues that can cause a person to turn to drugs to cope.
- Social life. How a person interacts with their peers can influence his or her susceptibility to addiction. Being harassed at a young age can lead to isolation, depression and low self-esteem. When politicians, religious leaders and popular media portray LGBT individuals as less than worthy of basic human rights, it affects how they see themselves. This added stress influences the likelihood of turning to drugs as a method of coping.
Embracing Alcohol and Drug Use
The gay community of a city or town often centers around bars or clubs. This combined with other increased risk factors has led to LGBT individuals having a greater chance of developing addiction. Gays, lesbians and transgendered individuals may also be more likely to act in opposition the traditional values that reject their community, and this can lead to promiscuity and drug use. Older LGBT individuals and couples often drink more and use more drugs than their straight counterparts to fit in with the community. LGBT individuals may also face judgment at hospitals and doctor’s offices making them less likely to seek treatment for drug addiction.
LGBT-Friendly Addiction Treatment
More and more treatment centers are paying attention to the needs of LGBT individuals. Call our toll-free helpline to learn more about treatment that accepts you as you are and will help you move forward to a drug and alcohol-free life. Our counselors are here 24 hours a day to help you find gay-friendly addiction treatment.