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.
Why do drug abusers live in denial?
"Denial is a common characteristic of many people struggling with substance abuse. It involves refusing to accept the reality of their addiction and its damaging consequences. There are several reasons why this denial occurs:
Fear: Admitting a problem means confronting the reality of addiction, including the perceived pain of withdrawal, the work of recovery, and potential stigma. Fear of these challenges can drive a person to deny their problem.
Guilt and Shame: Addiction often brings feelings of guilt and shame. Denial serves as a defense mechanism to avoid these difficult emotions.
Cognitive Impairment: Substance abuse can physically alter brain function, impairing judgment, memory, and self-awareness, making it harder for individuals to recognize or admit they have a problem.
Perception of Normality: If substance use is a daily occurrence, it can seem normal to the person doing it. They may think everyone else is doing the same or that their usage is acceptable or controlled.
Rationalization and Minimization: Individuals with substance use disorders often rationalize their behavior ("I only use on weekends") or minimize the consequences ("I still have my job, so it's not a problem").
Avoidance of Responsibility: Acknowledging the addiction implies a responsibility to change. Denial helps avoid this responsibility.
How do you help a person afflicted with alcoholism?
Helping someone afflicted with alcoholism requires a compassionate and supportive approach. The following steps can be useful in assisting an individual struggling with alcohol addiction:
Educate yourself: Gain an understanding of alcoholism, its causes, symptoms, and treatment options. This will help you better empathize with the person and offer informed support.
Express concern: Initiate a conversation with the person in a non-confrontational manner. Express your concerns about their alcohol use and its impact on their well-being. Be patient, empathetic, and avoid judgmental language.
Encourage professional help: Encourage the person to seek help from a medical professional, therapist, or addiction counselor. Offer assistance in finding appropriate resources and support them in taking the first steps towards treatment.
Offer emotional support: Be available to listen and provide emotional support throughout the recovery process. It is essential to maintain open lines of communication and offer a safe space for the individual to share their experiences and feelings.
Encourage participation in support groups: Recommend joining support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or SMART Recovery, which provide a community of individuals with similar experiences and can offer guidance and encouragement throughout the recovery process.
Establish boundaries: Set clear boundaries to protect your own well-being and communicate your expectations about the person's behavior. Be firm but understanding, and make it clear that you will not enable their alcohol use.
Assist with lifestyle changes: Help the person develop healthier habits, such as engaging in physical activity, improving their diet, and finding alternative ways to manage stress. Offer to participate in these activities together to provide additional support and motivation.
Be patient: Recovery from alcoholism is a long-term process, and relapses may occur. Understand that setbacks are a part of the journey, and continue to offer support and encouragement as the person works towards sobriety.
Care for yourself: Supporting someone with alcoholism can be emotionally taxing. Make sure you are taking care of your own mental and emotional health by seeking support from friends, family, or professional counselors if needed.