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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, along with other substance abuse challenges. By comparison, about 10% of the general population struggles with alcoholism. This speaks volume 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 a lack of social support, members of the LGBTQ community who struggle with alcohol may suffer in silence. Furthermore, LGBTQ people who have been disowned by family members face additional challenges for their wellness and mental health.

How Alcohol Affects LGBTQ Women

Research indicates that women in the LGBTQ community suffer higher rates of alcohol addiction than LGBTQ men. For examples, 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 dealing with gender-based discrimination may have more incentive to drink alcohol. Lesbian or bisexual women who suffer alcoholism while pregnant suffer greater risks.

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 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, starting making a positive change in your life today by contacting a treatment provider to get answers to your questions about LGBT-affirming treatment.

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