Why the LGBTQ Community Has Higher Rates of Substance Abuse

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LGBTQ community and addiction

What makes substance abuse so rampant within the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer or questioning (LGBTQ) community? Statistically speaking, LGBTQ adults are known to be nearly twice as likely to have a substance abuse disorder than heterosexuals, so it is a huge problem to the health and well-being of members within this community. By gaining a better understanding of the challenges that affect this community, it can help to explain the phenomena of mental health and substance abuse disorders within the LGBTQ community.

Feeling Isolated and Unsupported

Some in the LGBTQ community choose to keep their true identities hidden and shielded from others or “in the closet,” which might make them feel separated and isolated from others. Because of not feeling accepted and lacking the desired support from others, this may also lead to anxiety or feelings of loneliness on top of already feeling isolated. Feeling isolated, anxious, or lonely can all result in turning towards substance abuse in hopes of dulling undesirable feelings or negative thoughts.


A negative self-image can form from countless years of not feeling accepted by others, being bullied, discriminated against, or being on the receiving end of homophobia. Along with having a poor image of self, they can struggle ever feeling truly comfortable in their skin and may only feel like these feelings effectively fade when they self-medicate and use substances.

Mental Health Disorders and Other Co-Occurring Disorders

Members of the LGBTQ community are at a higher risk of experiencing poor mental health compared to their heterosexual peers. Historically in society, much of the experience of being LGBTQ has been marked by experiencing trauma, lack of acceptance, hate speech, or prejudice which may lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, or depression. Common mental health issues experienced in the LGBTQ communities include clinical depression, anxiety disorders, and stress. Other co-occurring disorders like mood or eating disorders can also begin an addiction or perpetuate it. Health issues like hepatitis, HIV/AIDS, or other sexually transmitted diseases can have the same effect on members of the LGBTQ community.

The LGBTQ community is known for having higher than average rates of substance abuse. This may be due to feelings of isolation, self-loathing, anxiety, or depression common to members of the LGBTQ community. Along with addressing the substance abuse disorder, it is critical to mend any emotional wounds that may have a causative or perpetuating factor in the addiction. If you or a loved one needs help getting sober, call Avalon Malibu. At Avalon Malibu, we meet each of our client’s individual needs to ensure they get the treatment right for them. Avalon offers a nurturing and therapeutic environment for patients to find recovery through a combination of clinical and holistic therapies. Call us at (844) 857-5992.

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