RCA Presents: Breaking Down Barriers to Recovery from Addiction for the LGBTQIA+ Community

Each month, Recovery Centers of America (RCA) presents informative and helpful news about substance use disorder and the treatment and recovery support services available locally. 

Celebrating LGBTQIA+ Individuals during Pride Month

June is LGBTQIA+ Pride Month, commemorating the Stonewall Uprising of 1969, where the patrons and allies of New York City’s Stonewall Inn stood up in opposition to police harassment and discrimination against LGBTQIA+ individuals. 

Since then, every June is a celebration of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, intersex and asexual individuals in their historic and ongoing struggles for justice and equality. 

Through parades, parties, picnics and more, members of the LGBTQIA+ communities and their allies celebrate these enduring efforts on a local, national and international scale.

During Pride Month, we also honor those within these communities who have been lost to hate crimes or HIV/AIDS.

The Challenges of Addiction for the LGBTQIA+ Community

One way that we can participate in the month’s commemoration is to recognize some of the continuing struggles faced by the LGBTQIA+ community and consider ways that we can help.

As the LGBTQIA+ population faces greater stigma, discrimination, harassment and violence, they bear a higher risk of behavioral health issues, including addiction or substance use disorders (SUD). Just so, members of these communities report significantly higher rates of illicit drug use.

The connection between LGBTQIA+ identities and substance use disorders has been substantiated by recent studies.

One of the largest federally funded surveys of its kind—the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH)—collected data from sexual minority adults (defined there as individuals who identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual), comparing patterns of substance use between this population and heterosexual adults.

The results bore out the difference. With marijuana use over the past year, 37.6% of the LGBTQIA+ population reported use, in contrast to 16.2% of the general population.

Opioid use (including heroin) stood at 9% among sexual minorities, compared to 3.8% of the other.

Separate studies have also shown an increased rate of nicotine use (both cigarette and e-cigarette), relative to the general adult population.  

Overall, the 2018 survey found that members of the LGBTQIA+ population are twice as likely to struggle with a SUD than their counterparts.

Many of these individuals struggle with substance use disorders do so alongside other co-occurring disorders, such as depression, anxiety, compulsive sexual disorders, mood disorders, self-harm and suicidality. Contending further with serious health problems, such as HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C and other sexually transmitted infections, is also a struggle for a significant portion of this population.

Among the transgender population, and transgender youth in particular, a recent study of substance use among transgender students in California public middle and high schools, found that they were around two and a half times more likely to use drugs than their peers.

LGBTQIA+ Rehab and Recovery

One obstacle to treatment is the lack of specialized inpatient drug and alcohol options addressed to the particular needs of the LGBTQIA+ population.

All of the facilities at Recovery Centers of America provide a safe place for this community to start their journeys to recovery. For it is a cornerstone of our approach that everyone who comes to us treated with dignity and respect. Across the board, our stance rejects stigma and negative value judgments, maintaining zero tolerance for hate or discrimination.

Further, some RCA sites have a specialized program for members of the LGBTQIA+ community, Acceptance recognizes the importance of individualized LGBTQIA+ rehab and recovery.

Our program begins by creating a safe, inclusive, and equitable environment for our patients in this population. We strive to reduce stigma and discrimination, along with any other barriers to treatment on the whole. In particular, our program addresses issues of identity, coming out, the relation between sexual and gender status to recovery, self-harm and self-worth, among others.

LGBTQIA+ individuals deserve to overcome addiction, realize their authentic selves—all within an environment where their identities are accepted and respected.

If you or a loved one is struggling with drugs or alcohol, call Recovery Centers of America now at 866-276-6174.