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.
What medications are used for the treatment of addiction?
Several medications have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of addiction to alcohol and certain types of drugs. The specific medication used can depend on the substance the person is addicted to, their overall health, and other individual factors. Here are a few examples:
For Alcohol Addiction:
- Disulfiram (Antabuse): This medication causes unpleasant effects such as nausea and flushing of the skin if a person drinks alcohol. The aim is to discourage them from drinking.
- Naltrexone (Revia, Vivitrol): Naltrexone blocks the euphoric and sedative effects of alcohol, helping to reduce cravings.
- Acamprosate (Campral): Acamprosate works by restoring the balance of certain chemicals in the brain that may become disrupted due to alcohol addiction. It can help people maintain abstinence from alcohol after they quit drinking.
For Opioid Addiction:
- Methadone: This is a long-acting opioid agonist that can prevent withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings for opioids. It is dispensed through specialized opioid treatment programs.
- Buprenorphine (Subutex, Suboxone): Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist that can help manage cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Suboxone also contains naloxone to prevent misuse.
- Naltrexone (Revia, Vivitrol): Like its use in alcohol addiction treatment, naltrexone can block the euphoric effects of opioids.
For Nicotine Addiction:
- Nicotine Replacement Therapies (NRTs): These come in various forms like gums, patches, lozenges, nasal sprays, and inhalers, and can help manage withdrawal symptoms and cravings when quitting smoking.
- Bupropion (Zyban): Initially developed as an antidepressant, bupropion can also help reduce cravings and the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal.
- Varenicline (Chantix): Varenicline helps reduce cravings for nicotine and decrease the pleasurable effects of cigarettes and other tobacco products.
What are the signs of addiction?
Physical symptoms: Changes in appearance, such as weight loss or gain, poor hygiene, bloodshot eyes, or constricted pupils, can be indicative of addiction. Additionally, the person may display signs of intoxication or withdrawal, such as tremors, sweating, or flu-like symptoms.
Behavioral changes: Addiction can lead to significant shifts in behavior, such as increased secrecy, social isolation, or sudden mood swings. The person may neglect responsibilities, withdraw from activities they once enjoyed, or display uncharacteristic aggression or irritability.
Loss of control: A hallmark of addiction is the inability to control substance use or engagement in harmful behaviors, even when the person expresses a desire to stop. This can lead to increased frequency or intensity of use, as well as unsuccessful attempts to quit or cut down.
Preoccupation: The person may become preoccupied with obtaining, using, or recovering from the effects of the substance or behavior, often at the expense of other aspects of their life.
Risk-taking: Addiction can lead to increased risk-taking behaviors, such as using substances in dangerous situations, driving under the influence, or engaging in risky sexual activities.
Neglecting relationships: Addiction can strain personal relationships, as the person may prioritize their substance use or behavior over their connections with friends and family.
Changes in sleep patterns and energy levels: Addiction can cause disruptions in sleep patterns, leading to insomnia or excessive sleepiness. The person may also experience fluctuations in energy levels, such as periods of hyperactivity followed by lethargy.
Tolerance and withdrawal: Over time, individuals with addiction may develop a tolerance to the substance or behavior, requiring higher doses or more frequent engagement to achieve the desired effect. If the person stops using the substance or engaging in the behavior, they may experience withdrawal symptoms, such as anxiety, irritability, insomnia, or physical discomfort.
Continued use despite negative consequences: A key sign of addiction is the persistence of substance use or engagement in harmful behaviors despite experiencing negative consequences, such as health issues, relationship problems, financial difficulties, or legal troubles.
Neglect of responsibilities: Addiction can cause a person to neglect personal, professional, or family obligations, resulting in job loss, financial difficulties, or relationship problems.