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.
How can I tell if I am an enabler?
"Enabling is a behavior often seen in the relationships of individuals struggling with addiction. An enabler, often without realizing it, may protect the individual with addiction from the consequences of their behavior, thus indirectly encouraging continued substance use. If you're unsure whether you might be enabling someone's addiction, consider the following signs:
- Rescuing: If you frequently find yourself covering up or making excuses for the individual's substance use or its consequences - like calling in sick to their job for them, paying their bills, or lying to others to conceal their addiction - this could be enabling.
- Denying: If you downplay the severity of their addiction, dismiss the negative impact it has, or avoid discussing it entirely, you may be enabling.
- Avoiding Conflict: If you consistently avoid confrontations or difficult conversations about their substance use out of fear it may cause tension or lead them to use more, this can be a form of enabling.
- Taking on Their Responsibilities: If you've taken on their duties - like household chores, parenting responsibilities, or work commitments - to compensate for their inability or unwillingness to fulfill them due to their addiction, you could be enabling.
- Providing Financial Support: If you're frequently giving them money, which they could be using to support their addiction, or bailing them out of financial problems caused by their substance use, this is often a clear sign of enabling.
- Ignoring Damaging Behaviors: If you tend to overlook or dismiss destructive or harmful behaviors associated with their addiction, you may be enabling.
Suicide risks from drug abuse among lgbtq+ youth
Substance abuse significantly increases the risk of suicide, particularly among vulnerable populations such as LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and others) youth. This heightened risk stems from a combination of factors associated with both substance abuse and the unique challenges faced by LGBTQ+ youth. Here's a closer look at these factors:
Mental Health Disorders: Substance abuse often co-occurs with mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder, which are known risk factors for suicide. LGBTQ+ youth experience these mental health conditions at higher rates than their heterosexual and cisgender peers, partially due to the minority stress they face.
Minority Stress: Minority stress refers to the chronic stress experienced by marginalized groups, including LGBTQ+ individuals. It can include experiences such as discrimination, stigma, bullying, and family rejection, which can increase feelings of hopelessness and contribute to both substance use and suicidal ideation.
Substance Use and Suicidal Behavior: Substance use can lead to increased impulsivity, decreased inhibition, and intensified feelings of despair, making a person more likely to attempt suicide. It can also exacerbate feelings of isolation and hopelessness, further increasing the risk.
Social Isolation: Many LGBTQ+ youth feel socially isolated, either because they are not out to their peers or because they face rejection after coming out. This isolation can lead to increased substance use and a higher risk of suicide.
Family Rejection: Family rejection related to an individual's sexual orientation or gender identity can lead to increased substance use and heightened suicide risk. LGBTQ+ youth who do not receive support from their families are particularly vulnerable.
Lack of Access to Mental Health Services: Many LGBTQ+ youth struggle to access mental health and substance use treatment services, which can help manage risk factors for suicide. Barriers to access can include lack of insurance, stigma, and a shortage of providers who offer LGBTQ+-inclusive care.
Intersectionality: LGBTQ+ youth who belong to other marginalized groups (e.g., racial/ethnic minorities) often face additional layers of discrimination and stress, which can further increase their risk of substance abuse and suicide.
Efforts to prevent suicide among LGBTQ+ youth include providing access to culturally competent mental health and substance use treatment, fostering supportive environments in schools and communities, and advocating for policies that protect LGBTQ+ youth from discrimination and harassment. It's also crucial to provide support for families of LGBTQ+ youth, as family acceptance has been shown to protect against suicide risk.