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Substance Abuse Treatment Strategies Specific For LGBT Patients

John Schaffer, LPCC

Medically reviewed by

John Schaffer, LPCC

April 5, 2019

Drug addiction is a problem that impacts certain communities at a much higher rate than elsewhere. The LGBT community is one of the most ravaged communities in the nation. Drug addiction rates are high and for many LGBT people and treatment can feel impossible. Thankfully, LGBT treatment strategies are becoming more and more prevalent around the nation.

Prevalence Of Substance Abuse In The LGBT Community

The unfortunate reality about the LGBT community is that it suffers from addiction at a very high rate. reported that LGBT people used tobacco at a rate 200 percent higher than heterosexual or non-transgendered people. Alcohol use was as high as 25 percent while drug use was 12.2 times more likely.

The reasons for this high rate of use are complex. Primarily, it is caused by the difficult emotional experiences that people often experience as an LGBT person. Even if they aren’t discriminated against or mocked for their identity, they often feel a strong sense of personal conflict before and after coming to terms with their sexuality and gender identity.

In desperation, many LGBT people turn to drugs and alcohol to self-medicate these emotional problems. Unfortunately, that has created a surfeit of LGBT people who suffer from addiction in a system that once lacked specialized treatments. Thankfully, more rehabilitation centers are either creating specialized programs for LGBT people.

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Strategies That Have Shown Promise

The complexity of the average LGBT person’s life makes drug rehabilitation strategies a particularly tricky problem to solve. Evidence-based interventions and treatments, such as 12-Step and cognitive behavioral therapy, may be enough for many LGBT people. However, deeper emotional problems may make these treatments less effective than they would otherwise be.

Any care strategy for LGBT people who suffer from an addiction must take into account both feminist and queer theory concepts. Feminist theory takes into account the unique problems faced by women in today’s society, and in particular, lesbian women. Queer theory discusses how gender and sexual identification affect a person’s life, particularly in an environment where gender and sexual norms are changing.

These theories are beneficial for homosexual people, but may not suit a transgendered person. Their identity is much more complex: for example, a male by sex may actually identify his gender as a woman and his sexuality as straight. Which means, he considers himself a straight woman. In this instance, queer theory may not be applicable to their needs.

Thus, the most promising drug addiction treatments for LGBT people are centered around the concept of community out-reach, fostering better understanding, and helping a person feel more integrated and accepted in their community. This is particularly relevant in younger LGBT people who are experiencing the first struggles with their identities.

Other treatments, such as counseling, personal therapy, group therapy, and psychological analysis have all shown promise in treating LGBT addiction. These treatments, when paired with detoxification and other inpatient and outpatient care, have helped to overcome addiction in a large number of LGBT people.

Treating Concerns That Contribute To LGBT Addiction

LGBT drug rehabilitation centers and the strategies they use are focused on helping treat the underlying concerns that often contribute to the high usage and addiction rate among this group. People who identify as LGBT often experience a litany of heart-wrenching setbacks that can cause the kind of emotional pain and sense of loss that makes drug use so appealing as a form of self-medication.

For example, coming out of the closet can be both an emotionally satisfying and traumatic experience. If a person’s family reacts poorly to their revelation or even rejects them, this can cause severe sorrow and even depression. And that depression is often treated with alcohol or various types of drugs, such as marijuana or even heroin.

Thankfully, LGBT drug rehab centers understand this pain and work hard to make their patients feel loved and accepted. This is especially true if they are surrounded by people who have suffered similarly rough life experiences. Sharing these experiences with caring and understanding people will help a person feel less alone and isolated. This may cure many of the underlying concerns contributing to their addiction.

LGBT drug rehab centers also specialize in treating the problems that plague transgendered people. They can help them sort through any gender-identification crisis they may be experiencing and resolve it in a positive and supportive way. Often, simply coming to this kind of understanding helps relieve the stress and depression that plague many transgendered people, particularly those that are addicted to drugs.

Don’t Hesitate To Make The Right Decision

If you’re an LGBT person, you’ve undoubtedly felt a lot of pain in your life, pain which is only compounded by drug addiction. Thankfully, there’s light at the end of the tunnel. LGBT drug rehabilitation can help you regain a sober lifestyle and may even help you feel a stronger sense of personal acceptance. Life as an LGBT person can be a positive and joyous experience if you allow it. Contact us at to learn more about LGBT rehabilitation centers near you.

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