Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people have many challenges regarding drug and alcohol abuse and addiction. Although rates of drug and/or alcohol abuse are high within the general population, rates of substance abuse are much higher within the LGBT community. These differences in rates are often dependent on particular gender, race, or sexual orientation.


LGBT Addiction

Substance abuse among LGBT people is higher than addiction problems of the heterosexual community. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that LGBT adult past-year drug use was higher than that of heterosexuals (39% versus 17%). In addition, female LGBT were more likely than heterosexual females to be binge drinkers or heavy alcohol consumers. The rate of substance use disorders among LGBT adults is reported to be higher across all gender and age groups.

Factors Related to LGBT Substance Use

According to research, LGBT substance users are more likely to suffer from methamphetamine and cocaine addiction, whereas heterosexual people are more likely to report alcohol as their drug of abuse. Within the LGBT community, abuse is found to be related to several outside factors. Bisexual men are more at risk than homosexual men to use marijuana and other illegal drugs. In addition, gay men are more likely than their straight counterparts to initiate substance use later than life.

Drug addiction causes much suffering for the addict and the loved ones of those addicted. A number of factors contribute to LGBT drug use and abuse. Many of these factors contribute to the development of an addiction in LGBT persons and prevent them from seeking treatment. These factors include:

  • A need to escape the social stigma of LGBT existence.
  • Higher rates of depression among LGBT persons.
  • Shame and guilt related to LGBT identity.
  • Efforts to enhance sexual feelings or evade them.
  • Peer pressure among this group.

Finding High-Quality LGBT Recovery Centers

The need for LGBT-friendly drug recovery programs is now being recognized among substance abuse counselors, psychologists, and other mental health professionals. LGBT recovery programs offer the same basic components as traditional rehabilitation centers, but they also focus on issues that are unique to the LBGT population. Typically, treatment places a heavy emphasis on therapy that is evidence-based. This includes individual counseling, group meetings, art therapy, and family counseling.

During treatment for addiction, LGBT people focus on one or more of the following issues:

  • Rebuilding relationships with family members, friends, and significant others.
  • Responding to discrimination and homophobia.
  • Forming an identity as a lesbian, gay, transgender, or bisexual person.
  • Dealing with common mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety.
  • Receiving guidance for coming out to the general public.

Types of LGBT Recovery Programs

LBBT rehab facilities vary somewhat based on the intensity, approach, and length of treatment. Some programs are focused on easing physical symptoms that put patients in immediate danger. Other programs focus on preparing recovering addicts for the difficult transition from the rehab center to everyday life. Drug recovery centers often focus on the identity of the LGBT addict.

Every LGBT recovery center has its own unique strengths, so no one program is right for all people. The key to maintaining recovery is to find a LGBT rehab program that will work with you to create a tailored treatment regimen that meets your individual needs. If you are struggling to recover, an outpatient supportive program may be best for you.

Cochran, S. D., Ackerman, D., Mays, V. M., & Ross, M. W. (2004). Prevalence of non-medical drug use and dependence among homosexually active men and women in the US population. Addiction, 99. 989-998.
Flentje, A., Heck, N. C., & Sorensen, J. L. (2015). Substance use among lesbian, gay, and bisexual clients entering substance abuse treatment: Comparisons to heterosexual clients. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 83(2). 325-334.
King, M., Semlyen, J., Tai, S. S., Killaspy, H., Osborn, D., Popelyuk, D., & Nazareth, I. (2008). A systematic review of mental disorder, suicide, and deliberate self-harm in lesbian, gay and bisexual people. BMC Psychiatry, 8. 70.
McCabe, S. E., West, B. T., Hughes, T. L., & Boyd, C. J. (2013). Sexual orientation and substance abuse treatment utilization in the United States: Results from a national survey. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 44. 4-12.