This is a guest post by Rebecca Moore from AbleRise.net, who is researching ways to improve the seamless integration of marginalised groups, including people with disabilities and the LGBTQ community, into society.
LGBTQ addicts face a number of challenges when seeking treatment for drug dependence that heterosexual individuals do not necessarily face. Members of this community need more safe spaces in which to recover from substance abuse issues.
Recent studies show us that up to 30% of the LGBTQ community struggles with substance abuse to one degree or another. Comparatively, less than 10% of the remaining population faces addiction to drugs and alcohol. When LGBTQ addicts reach out for help, however, they are often faced with numerous barriers that the addicted heterosexual population does not have. So, not only do these individuals tend to struggle with addiction three times as often as other individuals do, but they also have more difficulties with getting help than other demographics do.
Experiencing Addiction as a Member of the LGBTQ Community
Across the United States, members of the LGBTQ community face discrimination from a number of sources and places. Even though some regions are more accepting of this population than others are, no area is completely immune to discrimination when it comes to sexual orientation or gender identity. No matter where an LGBTQ member goes, he or she will be discriminated against and will face problems and difficulties that others do not face.
The prejudices that are prevalent among society at large place an incredible amount of strain on members of the LGBTQ community. The constant stigmatization leads many of these individuals to have feelings of worthlessness, confusion, fear, and self-doubt. The bombardment of this discriminatory message causes members of this population to turn to illicit substances as a form of self-medication. To make matters even worse, these same prejudices are then put on them in the addiction and rehabilitation field. So as if their lives weren’t hard enough already, these persons then experience the same discriminations when they try to beat addiction that caused them to turn to drugs and alcohol in the first place!
When society is telling you that you are bad because of your gender identity or sexual orientation, it may seem that your only relief is in the form of drug or alcohol abuse. Unfortunately, this sense of relief is only temporary at best, and it almost always leads to addiction and even bigger problems down the road. When addicts do reach out for help, they often find less support than they need.
Safe Spaces for LGBTQ Addicts
When searching for addiction recovery options, it may be difficult to find a program that is accepting of members of the LGBTQ community. Many individuals face direct discrimination by staff members or other patients at treatment centers. As such, it is necessary to create arenas where members of the LGBTQ community can feel safe while they recover from substance abuse issues. Thankfully, such programs and centers do exist, they are just few and far between at this time, though their numbers are thankfully growing. When one is looking for such a place there will be key characteristics to look for, including the following:
- Inpatient treatment facilities with programs designed specifically for LGBTQ addicts;
- 12 Step Programs, Alcoholics Anonymous, and Narcotics Anonymous meetings that accept members of the LGBTQ community, including transgender individuals whose gender identity differs from the sex they were assigned at birth;
- Rehabilitation centers with staff who are experienced in working with members of the LGBTQ community and have been trained in cultural sensitivity; and
- Community and aftercare programs designed specifically for LGBTQ members.
Regardless of sexual or gender orientation, you will always have a battle ahead of you when addiction is involved. But help does exist.
Organisations that support addicts in the South African LGBTQ community include the Pride Shelter Trust in Cape Town and OUT in Pretoria.
Absolutely true. The LGBT community often struggles far more with drug and alcohol issues mainly due to discrimination. Therefore, more care is necessary when dealing with them. Thankfully, more LGBT rehab centers are popping up everywhere in the U.S.