Alcohol Addiction And The LGBTQ Community
Author: Krystina Murray
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Alcohol Abuse In The LGBTQ Community
According to reports, about 25% of the LGBTQ population has at least a moderate alcohol use disorder (AUD), along with other substance abuse challenges. By comparison, about 10% of the general population struggles with alcoholism. This speaks volumes about systemic challenges people in the LGBQT community face. Additionally, some subgroups within the LGBTQ community experience even higher rates of alcohol abuse. Fortunately, as awareness grows about the effects of alcohol abuse on LGBTQ individuals, more rehab facilities are dedicating resources to supporting the LGBTQ community.
There are many risk factors for alcoholism, including unaddressed trauma and untreated mental conditions like depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety, OCD, and other conditions that affect a person’s wellbeing on a daily basis. Other risk factors for alcohol addiction are genetics, family history, and an addictive personality.
For the LGBTQ community, minority stress compounds the risk factors for alcohol addiction. For example, transgender individuals are more likely to experience stigmas, and they may cope by abusing alcohol. Feelings of shame, anger, stress, and low self-esteem can arise from being a victim of discrimination, leading to more likely harmful coping behaviors like binge drinking.
How Minority Stress And Anxiety Contributes To LGBTQ Alcohol Abuse
Members of the LGBTQ community belong to a minority group, which is often a source of stress. Minority stress is defined as, “negative effects associated with adverse social conditions experienced by individuals of a marginalized social group.” In addition to the LGBTQ community, minority stress can affect members of certain racial groups, religious, or practitioners of alternative lifestyles. In response to internalized bigotry and discrimination, some LGBTQ people drink alcohol in the hopes of coping.
Minority stress can cause feelings of isolation from society, family, and friends. Due to a lack of social support, members of the LGBTQ community who struggle with alcohol may suffer in silence. A major challenge for LGBTQ individuals who have been estranged by family members is lack of support.
How Alcoholism Impacts Gay Men
Gay men also suffer from the minority stress imposed on them from rigid beliefs surrounding sexuality and masculinity. A report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) noted gay men, in addition to other members of the LGBTQ community, are more at risk of drinking and drug use due to the discrimination faced. Furthermore, they are more likely to suffer higher rates of substance abuse (combining alcohol with other drugs), and, “continue heavy drinking into later life.”
In the past, gay men sometimes attended bars as a safe haven to be vulnerable and understood without social stigmas. A challenge of alcohol use in the gay male community is the impact alcoholism has on judgement and the vulnerability to HIV infection. Alcohol use can encourage risky sexual encounters, and when combined with drugs like Heroin, put individuals at risk of sharing dirty needles. Since gay and bisexual men are more likely to have psychiatric disorders when they abuse substances, including alcohol, getting help for drinking and mental health disorders can be extremely beneficial.
How Alcohol Affects LGBTQ Women
Research indicates that women in the LGBTQ community suffer higher rates of alcohol addiction than LGBTQ men. For example, women who identify as lesbian were 3 times more likely to have an alcohol use disorder when compared to homosexual men and heterosexual women. Bisexual women were nearly 6.5 times more likely than heterosexual women to meet the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual 5th Edition criteria for alcohol dependence.
The experiences of negative consequences from alcohol vary between lesbian and bisexual women. Lesbian women are 11 times more likely and bisexual women 2 or more times more likely to report negative consequences due to drinking. Ideas surrounding the numbers of lesbian and bisexual women battling alcoholism range from traditional and gender-based to trauma-based. For example, men often drink to portray an image of aggression or masculinity; however, women who endured sexual trauma and are dealing with gender-based discrimination may have more incentive to drink alcohol. Lesbian or bisexual women who suffer alcoholism while pregnant suffer greater risks.
Transgender People And Alcohol Abuse
Transgender people also endure unique challenges and receive challenging minority stress. In a study that compared transgender individuals to non-transgender individuals, studies found they were at higher risks of violence, HIV, mental health conditions, and discrimination; all which contribute to increased rates of substance abuse. Some studies have noted binge drinking rates in this community. The IOM report suggested binge drinking trends in the transgender people group that was studied.
Younger transgender people (early to middle adulthood) and transgender people of color were more likely to battle drinking and binge drinking. Transgender people drank more than cisgender individuals. Cisgender refers to those whose gender identity matches their sex assigned at birth. Despite this, factors like minority stress, being targets of violence, and feeling isolated or depressed can influence alcoholism. Fortunately, there are ways to get treatment as many facilities are LGBTQ friendly.
LGBTQ-Friendly Treatment Options
Finding treatment for alcoholism can seem like a hopeless or challenging task. Feeling like you may be misunderstood could cause you to hold back. Fortunately, treatment facilities are becoming more diverse and inclusive in their treatment programs. Inpatient rehab programs often feature LGBTQ-focused support groups that enable members to be themselves, and openly discuss relevant themes in meetings.
There would be little judgement from people who may be more conservative in their views of human sexuality and relationships formats. Additionally, there are more holistic-inspired treatments, such as self-love, one-on-one counseling, and trust building. Detox would be monitored by a health professional for the best support to reduce symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. Lastly, traditional medications for alcoholism like Naltrexone and Benzodiazepines are available.
Change Your Life For The Better
The first step to changing your life for the better is to be aware they/you need help. If you know you struggle with alcohol addiction, start making a positive change today. Contact a treatment provider to get answers to questions about LGBTQ-affirming treatment.
Author: Krystina Murray | Last Edited: October 1, 2021
Medical Reviewer: Theresa Parisi