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How Addiction Impacts the LGBTQ Community

Addiction can affect anyone, but some are more susceptible than others. LGBTQ individuals, for example, tend to have higher rates of substance use than the overall adult population. Here’s an overview of addiction in the LGBTQ community, why it’s so common, and why dual diagnosis treatment is so valuable for these individuals.

The Prevalence of Substance Abuse in the LGBTQ Community

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, LGBTQ adults consistently report higher rates of substance abuse than their counterparts. In 2018, for example, past-year marijuana use was approximately 21.4% higher among lesbian, gay, and bisexual respondents than the overall adult population (37.6% and 16.2%, respectively).¹ Similarly, those in the sexual minority frequently enter addiction treatment with more severe substance use disorders.²

Substances that are especially common among LGBTQ individuals include:

  • Alcohol (20-25% report dependency)
  • Tobacco (use twice as much as non-LGBTQ)
  • Marijuana (3.5 times more likely among gay men than straight men)
  • Heroin (9.5 times more likely)
  • Amphetamines (12.2 times more likely)³

Why the Higher Rates? LGBTQ Folks Face Unique Challenges

For any person, feelings of sadness, anxiety, and social disconnection can be major triggers for substance use and addiction. Those in the LGBTQ community often face pressure and judgment from loved ones and society at large, leaving them potentially vulnerable to self-medication with substances.

For example: A trans person who regularly faces bullying and discrimination over their identity may find that drugs “numb” the emotional pain. What starts as a one-time poor choice to “escape” after a bad day can quickly become a dangerous addiction.

People who have not yet come out to those around them may also be at higher risk of substance abuse due to feelings of loneliness, inauthenticity, or even self-hatred. LGBTQ individuals often also deal with co-occurring issues like anxiety disorders and depression, which also contribute to substance abuse risks.

Why Dual Diagnosis Treatment Is Key

Dual diagnosis treatment is a type of treatment that addresses both the addiction and any co-occurring issues, such as depression, anxiety, or PTSD. Comorbid behavioral health issues can easily trigger and worsen substance use disorders; failing to treat them leaves a person more vulnerable to relapse when distressing symptoms arise.

Comorbid issues are especially common in the LGBTQ community, in part because of the unique struggles they face in society. Gender and sexual orientation are core parts of a person’s identity, so judgments and conflict about them can affect every area of life. Dual diagnosis treatment is especially important to unraveling and healing these issues for long-term success.

Get LGBTQ-Friendly Help Today at Adelante Recovery Center

At Adelante Recovery Center in southern California, we provide effective dual diagnosis addiction treatment in a welcoming, supportive environment. Led by experienced staff and licensed counselors, our individually tailored treatment programs have helped thousands, including members of the LGBT community. Contact us today to find out how we can help you too.


  1. https://www.samhsa.gov/data/report/2018-nsduh-lesbian-gay-bisexual-lgb-adults
  2. https://misuse.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/error/abuse.shtml
  3. https://www.addictioncenter.com/addiction/lgbtq/

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If you or a loved one are in need of help with addiction, contact us today. Our professional and friendly addiction specialists are able to answer your questions and get things moving in the right direction.