General enquiries: 0800 326 5559
International: 0330 333 8188

Addiction Help For LGBTQ People

    Addiction Help For LGBTQ People

    Addiction affects people throughout the UK. Some groups, however, are more affected by it than others. Research makes it clear that more provision needs to be made for those in the LGBTQ community who are also living with addiction. This is due to substance misuse being very high and therefore an important concern within the community.

    There are treatment services available already where LGBTQ-friendly approaches are being implemented. Current treatment services and options are outlined below.

    What are the addiction trends in the LGBTQ community in the UK?

    Before thinking about treatment, it’s important to consider how addiction affects the LGBTQ community.

    Research reveals that drug use is higher for people who are LGBTQ than it is for those who are heterosexual.(1) The same report states that LGBTQ groups are more likely to experiment with new drugs. There are many factors that influence a person’s use.

    Drugs that are commonly used in the LGBTQ community are as follows:

    • Cannabis
    • Cocaine
    • Poppers
    • Ecstasy
    • Viagra
    • Steroids

    In the first four drugs mentioned above, LGBTQ people took them at least double the amount of times than heterosexual people.

    16% of LGBTQ people admitted to drinking “alcohol almost every day” and 13% “took drugs at least once a month”.(2)

    Mental health in the LGBTQ community in the UK

    52% of the LGBTQ community experience mental health problems.(2) This is due to a wide range of factors. Being LGBTQ doesn’t cause psychological problems, but societal factors around being LGBTQ increases the likelihood of mental health problems such as depression and anxiety.

    It’s essential to consider the context that increases the risk of mental health issues for those who are LGBTQ. This is the same context that increases the likelihood of people in this community developing addictions.

    What makes the addiction risk higher for those who are LGBTQ

    It’s very common for people who are LGBTQ to self-medicate with substances as a way of coping with experienced and expected homophobia.

    There are a number of areas where very distressing feelings and events can occur. Internal and external factors make the situation very complex.

    1. Personal feelings of self-hatred

    Unfortunately, homophobia exists and in many ways is deeply ingrained in society. Pretty much every aspect of society is heterocentric. These heterocentric attitudes and policies can create a very uncomfortable experience for those who LGBTQ.

    In many communities, this can make life very distressing for people who are LGBTQ. Internalised homophobia is extremely common for those who are LGBTQ. Admitting one’s identity in a society that is largely respectful of the identity can create both ambivalence towards oneself as well as creating an internal environment of self-hatred.

    These negative feelings that a person carries can become a reason that people may become addicted to drugs or alcohol. Many substance users report that they use drugs and alcohol to numb pain and quiet thoughts.

    2. Dual Diagnosis

    As mentioned earlier about half of the people who are LGBTQ live with mental health problems. These are largely centred around depression and anxiety. 46% of trans people have considered ending their lives. (2)

    When mental health problems exist, this can make accessing treatment for either addiction or the actual mental health problem really difficult.

    This is because the symptoms related to mental health and addiction can make it harder to get help. Symptoms that create barriers to accessing treatment include:

    • Low motivation
    • Low mood
    • Feelings of low self-worth and self-confidence
    • A loss of interest in things
    • Denial or feeling ashamed of the problem

    3. Lack of a support network

    For many people who are LGBTQ it can be a very isolating experience. When a person comes out, many face rejection from family and friends. Many are pressured into having “conversion therapies” by those close to them.

    Others might choose not to tell anyone about their gender or sexuality and pretend to be something they aren’t. This sense of living a lie has the potential for creating huge detrimental effects.

    The experience of having a huge part of one’s identity rejected, ridiculed, or attacked can cause a person to turn to substances.

    When a person builds the courage to access treatment for mental health or addiction there can be other problems. Even within the healthcare sector, 23% of the LGBTQ community have experienced discriminatory remarks from staff.(2)

    4. Stigma in society

    Unfortunately, there is a stigma attached to being LGBTQ. This can make life very difficult in a heterocentric society.

    Since 2013, hate crimes have been on the increase in England and Wales. In 2018/2019, there were 16,824 hate crimes reported due to the person’s sexual orientation or being transgender.(3)

    Despite there being great moves towards raising awareness of and respecting LGBTQ issues in the UK, there’s a huge way to go. Discrimination and prejudice is still a massive problem.

    LGBTQ people are bullied, harassed, and attacked. This can, understandably, create a situation where a person seeks a coping mechanism. Addiction very often originates from a person looking for a way to cope with difficult or traumatic events.

    What addiction treatment options are there for the LGBTQ community?

    In drug rehabilitation, there are two types of services that a person can access: outpatient and inpatient. Outpatient services are useful for those experiencing mild addictions. A person will stay living at home and access treatments as and when they’re time-tabled in or when there’s staff availability for one-to-ones.

    Alternatively, people can attend a private rehab clinic. This is more beneficial for those who have moderate to severe substance misuse problems. There is an intense approach to treatment where people are given full support 24/7.

    Rehabilitation programmes include physical and psychological support to enable a person to recover from addiction. Within private clinics, there is also a heavy emphasis on providing mental health support where necessary.

    Various clinics are available throughout the country. The OK Rehab team have extensive knowledge of what’s available and will give you tailored advice to suit your needs as to what is most appropriate.

    Many local substance rehabilitation services are working collaboratively with local LGBTQ services in order to provide a comprehensive approach to treatment. Many staff are also trained in order to keep up-to-date with LGBTQ issues and to ensure this improves their approach to work and supporting LGBTQ people undergoing treatment.

    Final Thoughts

    Being from the LGBTQ community and living with an addiction introduces a complex experience for a person to live. For many, this can be very distressing. Many feel isolated.

    There is a huge range of barriers that can prevent the LGBTQ community from accessing treatment for addiction. This can stem from both internal or external factors. Society has a long way to come in recognising and implementing the full extent of support that is required to support the LGBTQ community who have addictions.

    There are, however, a wide range of rehabilitation options for LGBTQ people who are living with addiction right now. Training and awareness around LGBTQ issues is improving the sector and approaches to LGBTQ treatments.

    If you or a loved one is part of the LGBTQ community and wants more information on addiction treatment options in your local area, contact OK Rehab. You can also contact organisations such as London Friend.

    One of our friendly and compassionate advisors will be available to give you emotional support and advice on what to do next. With your consent, they will be happy to lead you through a referral to treatment.







    Subscribe to our email list to get the latest information right to your inbox