Reducing Stigma & Creating Access: The Importance of LGBTQ-inclusive Addiction Treatment

Substance use and addiction affect people from all walks of life in every community. But for members of the LGBTQ community, the journey toward recovery can present distinctive difficulties when seeking help for addiction. LGBTQ individuals face a range of obstacles unique to their lived experiences, seeming from societal factors, discrimination, and lack of understanding.

We’ll delve into these challenges and explore the importance of LGBTQ-inclusive care.

Risk Factors for Substance Use and Misuse in the LGTBQ Community

Certain risk factors that contribute to the likelihood that someone may develop a substance use disorder. Some of the risk factors for addiction include:

  • Genetics — having a family history of addiction or certain mental health disorders can increase the chance of developing a substance use disorder.
  • Trauma or chronic stress — If someone has experienced trauma or stress, they are more likely to develop an addiction. This is because they may use drugs or alcohol to cope with difficult emotions or numb the pain of trauma.
  • Mental health disorders — If someone has a mental health problem, such as depression or anxiety, they are more likely to develop an addiction. 

For LGBTQ individuals, additional contributing factors can include:

  • Social stigma — LGBTQ people often face social stigma and discrimination, leading to feelings of isolation, shame, and depression. These feelings can make it more likely that LGBTQ people will use substances to cope with difficult emotions.
  • Rejection by family — Individuals who identify as LGBT may also face family conflict due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. This conflict can lead to feelings of rejection, abandonment, and anxiety, increasing the risk of substance use.
  • ViolenceMembers of the LGBTQ are more likely to experience violence, trauma, or sexual assault than the general population. Trauma can increase the risk of substance use to cope with difficult memories or emotions.

Substance Misuse in the LGBTQ Community.

According to data from the 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, substance use and misuse rates are significantly higher for LGBTQ adults when compared to the overall adult population.

  • 41.3% of individuals who identified as LGBTQ reported past-year marijuana use, compared to 18.7% of the overall population.
  • 6.7% of LGBTQ individuals reported past-year opioid use, compared to 3.6% of the general population.
  • 21.8% of LGBTQ community members had a past-year alcohol use disorder, compared to 11% of the population.

Barriers to Addiction Treatment

For many LGBTQ people struggling with addiction, there are barriers to accessing effective treatment. Some of these include:

  • Fear of discrimination — LGBTQ people may be afraid of discrimination or being treated differently in treatment. This can prevent them from seeking help, even if they know they need it.
  • Geographic limitations — Not all areas have the same number of treatment providers, and some areas may have no providers at all. This can make it difficult for people to find treatment close to home. Additionally, people living in rural areas may not have access to public transportation, making it difficult to get to treatment. This can be a significant barrier for people who do not have a car or who cannot afford to drive.
  • Financial barriersLGBTQ people are more likely to live in poverty than the general population. This can make it difficult to afford treatment, especially if they do not have insurance.
  • Lack of LGBTQ-affirming providers — Not all treatment providers are LGBTQ-affirming. This means that they may not be familiar with the unique needs of LGBTQ people or hold negative attitudes toward LGBTQ people.

Why LGBTQ-Inclusive Addiction Care is Important

LGBTQ people are more likely to experience substance use disorders than the general population. They are also more likely to face discrimination and stigma in healthcare settings, making it difficult to access treatment.

Inclusive addiction care ensures that LGBTQ people have the same quality of care as everyone else. LGBTQ-inclusive addiction care addresses the challenges that members of the community face by providing a safe and welcoming environment for LGBTQ people, which includes:

  • Staff who are not only trained in LGBTQ specific issues, but understand the unique needs of people within the community.
  • A welcoming, safe, and supportive environment can help alleviate distrust and help LGBTQ folks open up.
  • Customized treatment plans that are tailored to the individual’s needs, address potential co-occurring disorders, and lay the groundwork for a life in recovery.

LGBTQ-inclusive addiction care is also important because it can help to improve long-term outcomes for LGBTQ people. When LGBTQ people feel safe and supported in their treatment, they are more likely to stay in treatment and achieve long-term recovery.

Was this page helpful?
Thank you for your feedback.

American Addiction Centers (AAC) is committed to delivering original, truthful, accurate, unbiased, and medically current information. We strive to create content that is clear, concise, and easy to understand.

Read our full editorial policy

While we are unable to respond to your feedback directly, we'll use this information to improve our online help.

A New Life Awaits
Start your recovery at our spa-like facility in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. Holistic therapies, chef-prepared meals, and LGBTQ+ support are among the many features of our premier drug and alcohol treatment program.