Commonly Asked Questions about Addiction and Treatment
Why are lgbtq+ individuals at higher risk for drug and alcohol abuse?
LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and others) individuals are indeed at a higher risk for drug and alcohol abuse due to a variety of factors that often intersect and compound over time. These factors primarily relate to the stress and challenges associated with living as a marginalized group in many societies. Here are some of the main factors:
Minority Stress: This term refers to the chronic stress faced by individuals belonging to a stigmatized minority group. For LGBTQ+ individuals, this can stem from societal prejudice, discrimination, and violence related to their sexual orientation or gender identity. Such stressors can contribute to increased substance use as a coping mechanism.
Stigma and Discrimination: Experiences of rejection, exclusion, and maltreatment can increase feelings of anxiety and depression, which are associated with higher substance use rates. This can occur in various settings, including workplaces, schools, and even within families and social networks.
Internalized Negative Self-Perceptions: LGBTQ+ individuals may internalize societal biases and develop negative self-perceptions about their identity, leading to feelings of guilt, shame, and low self-esteem. These feelings can contribute to the misuse of substances as a form of self-medication.
Lack of Inclusive Healthcare: Many healthcare systems lack the resources or training to provide culturally competent care to LGBTQ+ individuals. This can make it difficult for these individuals to seek help or access effective treatment for substance use disorders.
Social Isolation: Feelings of isolation, which can be the result of rejection or non-acceptance by family, friends, or society, can increase the risk of substance use and misuse.
Intersectional Identity Stressors: LGBTQ+ individuals who also belong to other marginalized groups (like racial or ethnic minorities) may face additional stressors that can increase the risk of substance abuse.
Can alcohol withdrawal be fatal?
Yes, alcohol withdrawal can be fatal in severe cases, which is why it should always be managed under the supervision of healthcare professionals. This is especially true for individuals who have been drinking heavily for a long period of time or who have a history of severe withdrawal symptoms.
The most serious form of alcohol withdrawal is called delirium tremens (DTs), which occurs in approximately 5% of patients undergoing withdrawal. It typically starts 48 to 72 hours after the last drink, and symptoms can include severe confusion, hallucinations, high blood pressure, fever, heavy sweating, and rapid heartbeat. In addition to these, seizures can occur, which add to the risk.
Delirium tremens is a medical emergency and can be life-threatening if not treated promptly. Mortality rates without treatment are estimated to be as high as 35%, but with appropriate treatment, this rate drops to 5-15%.
Even less severe cases of alcohol withdrawal can be dangerous because they can lead to dehydration, severe vomiting, or other complications. Furthermore, withdrawal symptoms can make it difficult for an individual to maintain abstinence from alcohol, increasing the risk of a potentially dangerous relapse.
What is a medical detox?
Medical detox, also known as medically supervised detoxification, is the process of safely managing the physical symptoms of withdrawal from substances like alcohol, opioids, or other drugs under the supervision of healthcare professionals. This process is typically the first step in a comprehensive treatment plan for substance use disorders.
The goal of medical detox is to minimize the physical harm caused by withdrawal and to alleviate discomfort. Here's what it typically involves:
Evaluation: This first step includes a thorough assessment of the individual's physical and mental health, as well as the extent and nature of their substance use. This information is used to design an appropriate and personalized detox and treatment plan.
Stabilization: During this phase, medical professionals administer treatment to manage withdrawal symptoms and ensure the patient's safety. This may involve the use of medications to ease symptoms and prevent complications. Medical staff monitor the patient's vital signs like heart rate, blood pressure, and temperature, and may provide nutritional support and hydration as needed.
Preparation for Further Treatment: Once the acute phase of detox is complete, the focus shifts to preparing the individual for further treatment, such as inpatient or outpatient rehab. This may involve counseling or therapy to help the individual understand the importance of continuing treatment to maintain long-term recovery.