LGBTQ Recovery | What Does Support LGBTQ Mean?

LGBTQ people often experience higher rates of co-occurring disorders than the general population because of the stress of living in a society that often rejects them. As a result, this can lead to increased alcohol and substance abuse in the LGBTQ community. Studies show that alcohol or tobacco abuse rates are 2‐4 times higher among LGBTQ youth than their heterosexual peers. 

The stigma surrounding mental health treatment can make it difficult for LGBTQ people to seek help. Mental illness is a real and serious condition that should be treated with care and compassion. On top of that, co-occurring disorders are often complex and require specialized treatment — especially with substance abuse. LGBTQ people should seek out providers who are knowledgeable about and sensitive to their needs.

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What are Co-Occurring Disorders?

Co-occurring disorders, also known as dual diagnosis, refer to a condition in which an individual has mental illness and substance abuse disorder. This can include depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. Individuals who suffer from co-occurring disorders often find that their symptoms are exacerbated by drug or alcohol use. As a result, they may turn to substances to self—medicate, leading to a downward mental health spiral. 

Co-occurring disorders play an important role in understanding substance abuse, as they can make it difficult for individuals to maintain sobriety. Without treatment, co-occurring disorders can lead to a downward spiral of addiction and mental health decline. 

Why Are Co-Occurring Disorders Prevalent Among the LGBTQ Community? 

Research suggests that members of the LGBTQ community are more likely to experience mental health disorders than the general population. One factor contributing to this is living in a society that often disapproves of their lifestyle choices. This circumstance can lead to feelings of isolation, which can, in turn, trigger or worsen one’s mental health. Additionally, many LGBTQ individuals face discrimination and violence both from individuals and institutions, which can also take a toll on mental health. 

As a consequence of the external triggers LGBTQ people face, they are more likely to develop co-occurring disorders. These can include anxiety and marijuana, depression and alcohol, etc. LGBTQ individuals are more likely to abuse substances to cope with their challenges, exacerbating their mental health problems. In fostering LGBTQ recovery, mental health professionals must be aware of the unique needs of this population.

Substance Abuse in the LGBTQ Community

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), one in two LGBTQ individuals has a substance abuse disorder. In 2019, marijuana, psychotherapeutic drugs, and hallucinogens were among the most consumed drugs by LGBTQ users. The combined struggle to find self-acceptance and handle incoming hatred makes LGBTQ prone to substance abuse. 

What Are the Factors that Contribute to Increased LGBTQ Substance Abuse?

Being a member of the LGBTQ community comes with its challenges and stresses. As a consequence of these societal issues, each LGBTQ person is on a quest to find self-love and acceptance. There are many reasons for the pressures that lead to substance abuse in an LGBTQ person’s life. 

Stress from Marginalization

LGBTQ individuals deal with both external and internalized forms of discrimination, which can take a toll on their mental and physical health. The constant pressure to see oneself through the eyes of another can prove to have profound effects on the psyche. A GLSEN National School Climate Survey found that 86% of LGBTQ youth experienced harassment based on their perceived appearance. As a result of this discrimination, LGBTQ people are more likely to experience anxiety, depression, and shame

Limited Access to Compassionate Healthcare

Just because LGBTQ people aren’t getting the healthcare they need doesn’t mean they don’t want it. A Trevor Project study found that 48% of LGBTQ youth reported they sought mental health services but could not receive them. LGBTQ people often face many challenges when pursuing mental healthcare. They may feel unwelcome or even unsafe in a healthcare setting, which can lead to them delaying or avoiding care altogether. 

Workplace Discrimination

Workplace discrimination against LGBTQ individuals is a significant source of stress. A UCLA study found that over 46% of LGBTQ individuals have experienced harassment in the workplace. The impact of this treatment can be significant. LGBTQ individuals who experience workplace discrimination are more likely to report higher levels of stress, anxiety, and depression. They are also more likely to miss work days due to stress-related illnesses. The stress caused by workplace discrimination is a significant issue for LGBTQ individuals dealing with substance abuse issues.

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What Does the Substance Abuse Rehab Process Look Like for LGBTQ Individuals?

Access to compassionate healthcare is essential for LGBTQ persons to improve their overall health and well-being. A National Institute on Drug Abuse study showed that only seven percent of rehab programs offered specialized treatment for LGBTQ patients. It’s essential to address the particular needs of the LGBTQ community to address their addiction needs holistically. By creating safe, inclusive, and empathic environments, healthcare providers can help ensure that all patients receive the high-quality care they deserve.

Substance Abuse Support for LGBTQ Recovery

The landscape of addiction and substance abuse support for LGBTQ individuals has changed dramatically in recent years. Although there is still a long way to go, there is now a greater understanding of the unique challenges faced by this community. As a result, there are an increasing number of substance abuse rehab programs specifically designed to meet the needs of LGBTQ individuals. 

Process of LGBTQ Recovery

The first step of the treatment process is to undergo medical detoxification, which can be done in either an inpatient or outpatient setting. This phase is followed by a period of intensive therapy, during which patients will work to identify the root causes of their addiction. Individuals will also build new coping skills and develop a support network. After completing therapy, most patients will transition to a less intense level of care, such as a partial hospitalization program or an Intensive Outpatient Program. For many LGBTQ individuals, this process is vital for achieving long-term sobriety.

Avoiding Relapse Triggers

For anyone in recovery, avoiding relapse triggers is essential to maintaining sobriety. But for LGBTQ individuals in recovery, the task can be incredibly challenging. This is because many of the safe places and activities for other addicts may not be safe for them. For example, LGBTQ recovery meetups may not be open to people of all gender identities and sexual orientations. Additionally, many LGBTQ people feel unsafe in 12-step meetings due to the heteronormative and cisnormative nature of the program. Ultimately, most treatment facilities are not equipped to deal with the unique needs of LGBTQ patients. As a result, LGBTQ addicts often have to build their support systems to stay sober and not fall back on relapse triggers

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Personalized Treatment for the LGBTQ Community

AspenRidge Recovery offers several programs that cater to the specific needs of LGBTQ individuals struggling with addiction. Our team of compassionate and certified counselors has extensive experience working with LGBTQ clients, and we are committed to providing high-quality care in a safe and welcoming environment. Our programs are designed to help individuals heal from the unique challenges of being a member of the LGBTQ community. 

We understand the importance of affirming one’s identity, and our goal is to help LGBTQ individuals build a strong foundation of self-acceptance and self-love in their recovery. We believe that every individual deserves quality addiction treatment, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. If you or an LGBTQ loved one is struggling with addiction, reach out to us today.