Addiction Research in the LGBT Community

Gay culture has taken an enormous deal of fault for the extreme statistics on LGBT substance abuse issues, which are estimated to subsist overall at more than twice the nine percent rate in the overall population. To some degree, there was a certain social mentality that sustained long past the time when being gay was illegal, and the only place where people could meet was over drinks, etc., in a communal atmosphere. To a great extent, people who were exploring for sexual partners often met at clubs while partying. The typical idea was not automatically to run from their problems of not being acknowledged in their family, due to rejection, etc., but simply just going out and being social.

Drug taking surely has its LGBT (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender) angles. In the past couple of decades, a larger number of gay and/or bisexual men have developed addictions to crystal meth. This problem is linked to high rates if HIV infection, both as cause and effect. Heavy alcohol abuse is very extreme amongst lesbians and bisexual women, although interesting new conclusions suggest that civil right advances might sober some women up. “Internalized homophobia” is the current psychological term for the way anti-gay humiliation can dig deep, and serious substance abuse only makes it worse. Investigators point to a pattern of traumas during childhood and others along the way. It tends to produce a painful cycle that is difficult to break, and the use of drugs or alcohol briefly relieves…but then reinforces a sense of self-loathing during the drug withdrawal cycle, leading to an even lower self-esteem.

One of the areas of recent findings focuses on the fact that disorders begin early in life in these conditions. The problem of bullying in schools for this population has indeed been apparent. A report in 2011 found that 82% of LGBT youths had severe problems with it. But even harder to gauge is family abuse, which has always been a serious issue, and will undoubtedly remain so.

Measuring long-term changes in people’s lives is another thing, and regrettably, there has been very little funding for large-scale studies tracking LGBT health over a vital period of time, about substance abuse or everything else, for that matter. We also can’t forget the damage done by psychiatry’s assertion on branding homosexuality as a mental illness well into the 1970’s. What’s more, the first conclusions on LGBT substance abuse were pretty useless, because they were founded on distorted information. In the 70’s and 80’s, many of the subjects that were studied were sitting at bar stools; hardly a solid clinical environment. It wasn’t until 2000 that the federal government officially pronounced sexual orientation to be a major factor in contributing to the disparities in the health of Americans. It’s only recently that large scale, longer term data is becoming available in both the U.S. and the U.K. The best investigations into LGBT health so far have been in the area of HIV prevention and treatment, especially amongst gay men.

Rates of HIV infection, attempted suicide, drug and alcohol abuse amongst transgender and gender non-conforming people produces clear attention to the fact that transgender-sensitive recovery programs are in overwhelming need. Transgender people with substance abuse syndromes are regrettably the least studied of all, and the least catered to in terms of treatment. Although there is a network of 12-step meetings in the LGBT community around the country, few have found applicable ways to target transgender addicts and get them into recovery. And lastly, although this really doesn’t have much to do with this article, a strange fun-fact: It’s difficult to believe, but as of 2014, there is no still no federal law against firing someone simply for being gay.

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