“Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life; define yourself.”
We currently live in a society that has been overcome with stigma, turmoil, violence, judgment, and brokenness. Most of the time, we are fighting against each other for the same end goal: freedom, respect, and love. Living in a world where you are seen as different because of your race, gender, or sexual orientation can be anything other than warm and welcoming. Those individuals who identify as LGBTQ often exist in silence and isolation. Hiding in the closet, in fear, ashamed, and sometimes suffering from a substance use disorder.
The two stigmas: addiction and sexual orientation
Overcoming substance use disorders within the LGBTQ community can be especially challenging since there are two stigmas involved: addiction and sexual orientation. These individuals often struggle with rejection, isolation, low self-esteem, and physical threats of violence. These discriminatory factors often lead many to rely on unhealthy coping mechanisms such as drugs and alcohol to cover up their internal pain and briefly escape from their harsh reality. The internalized stigma and homophobia that this community is faced with are also the underlying reasons why many choose not to seek substance use disorder treatment.
LGBTQ community resources for substance use disorders
For many years, it has been increasingly acknowledged that the incidence of substance use disorders is higher among people who self-identify as homosexual, bisexual, transgendered, or elsewhere on the gender or sexuality spectrum (LGBTQ). Often, it can be challenging for those who identify as LGBTQ to find treatment that genuinely meets their needs without being confronted with negative prejudice.
The following are LGBTQ community resources that can be used for both clients and providers within the substance use disorder treatment realm:
- SAMHSA A Provider’s Introduction to Substance Abuse Treatment for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Individuals: “This manual informs clinicians and administrators about substance use disorder treatment approaches that are sensitive to patients among the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) population. It covers cultural, clinical, health, administrative, and legal issues as well as alliance building”.
- The Trevor Project: “Founded in 1988 by the creators of the Academy Award-winning short film TREVOR, The Trevor Project is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning (LGBTQ) young people under 25”.
- SAMHSA Affordable Care Act Enrollment Assistance for LGBTQ Communities: “This resource guide assists health professionals with helping lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people understand health insurance options under the Affordable Care Act, particularly mental health and substance use benefits and services, and enroll in plans”.
- NALGAP: “The Association of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Addiction Professionals and Their Allies (NALGAP) is dedicated to the prevention and treatment of alcohol use disorders, substance abuse, and other dependencies in LGBTQ+ communities. NALGAP is committed to providing unbiased support and assistance to LGBTQ+ people suffering from substance use disorders”.
- GaL-AA (Gays and Lesbians in AA): “This inclusive Alcoholics Anonymous chapter hosts special meetings for LGBTQ+ people to help them through recovery. In addition to providing a platform where LGBTQ+ people can express themselves and share their experiences with people in similar situations, AA provides a guide specifically designed for gay and lesbian alcoholics”.
- Family Acceptance Project: “The Family Acceptance Project® is a research, intervention, education and policy initiative that works to prevent health and mental health risks for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBTQ) children and youth, including suicide, homelessness, drug use and HIV – in the context of their families, cultures and faith communities”.
ARC is an LGBTQ ally
For LGBTQ individuals who are seeking treatment for a substance use disorder, it is important to search for treatment centers understand their social, personal and psychological challenges as well who provides support for specific issues that pertain to this community:
- Managing responses to discrimination from others.
- Dealing with depression, anxiety, and guilt that stem from sexual orientation or gender identity.
- Handling peer pressure and the party scene.
- Guidelines for accepting identity and coming out.
ARC is a full-service addiction treatment center located in the Los Angeles area that has remained open throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. ARC fully supports individuals of all genders, sexual orientations, and ethnicities and takes pride in providing the best-tailored care to members of the LGBTQ community. The treatment staff at ARC ensures that your detox, treatment, and recovery are tailored to your individual needs. Our goal is to provide individualized treatment in a safe and secure environment in hopes that you can live a happier, healthier, and prosperous future.
Kristen Fuller, M.D., is a clinical content writer and enjoys writing about evidence-based topics in the cutting-edge world of mental health and addiction medicine. She is a family medicine physician and author, who also teaches and contributes to medicine board education. Her passion lies within educating the public on preventable diseases, including mental health disorders and the stigma associated with them. She is also an outdoor activist and spends most of her free time empowering other women to get outside into the backcountry.