The percentage of United States citizens who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer (LGBTQ+), has risen in recent years. It is unknown whether this is due to the unreliability of this type of survey, or because of a decrease in the stigma surrounding this community in recent years. Either way, the LGBTQ+ population is growing, and while it is becoming less taboo, there is still a stigma for those who identify as part of this community.
Stigma and Mental Health
Stigma, discrimination, and the denial of human and civil rights result in health disparities for those who identify as LGBTQ+. In addition, this stigma is associated with high rates of substance abuse, psychiatric disorders, and suicide among LGBTQ+ individuals.
People in the LGBTQ+ community often experience violence and victimization, which causes long-term effects such as PTSD. In addition, the level of acceptance they receive from themselves, their families, and society dramatically affects their mental health and safety. For example, people who identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual are two to three times more likely to have suicidal thoughts than heterosexual individuals.
Stigma against LGBTQ+ individuals often causes trauma which, in turn, can lead to mental health issues if this trauma is not addressed. For members of the LGBTQ+ population, stigma can come from verbal and physical abuse, rejection from family and friends, and discrimination in housing, employment, and education. This stigma can cause LGBTQ+ individuals to feel isolated, inferior, and worthless.
The resulting trauma can manifest as anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, self-harm, and suicidality. It is important to remember that these mental health issues are not caused by the individual’s sexuality or gender identity – they are caused by the stigma and discrimination they experience.
The California LGBTQ+ Addiction Crisis
A study conducted by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIDA) found that people who identify as gay or lesbian are more than twice as likely as those who identify as heterosexual to struggle with substance use. In addition, those who identify as bisexual are three times as likely to have a substance use problem. Someone unsure of their sexual identity is five times as likely to develop a substance use disorder (SUD).
The study found that nearly 60% of LGBTQ+ Californians who needed substance use disorder (SUD) treatment in the past year did not receive it. In addition, only 30% of LGBTQ+ Californians who needed SUD treatment in the past year reported that they were able to find an appropriate provider.
California is seen as one of the most liberal states in the nation. LGBTQ rights have seen nationwide recognition since the 1970s, and California was the first state to legalize domestic partnerships between same-sex couples.
Despite these advances, the LGBTQ+ community in California faces significant challenges regarding substance abuse and mental health treatment resources.
The Need for Specialized Treatment
The LGBTQ+ population is more likely to experience co-occurring substance abuse and mental health issues than the general population. While many factors contribute to this increased risk, one major factor is discrimination.
LGBTQ+ individuals often face discrimination and bias when seeking health care, deterring them from seeking help. Even when they do seek treatment, they often encounter providers who are not familiar with their unique needs.
LGBTQ+ population’s substance abuse treatment needs are unique and often not met in traditional programs for SUD. This can be for a number of reasons, but most often, it is because of a lack of understanding or cultural competence around issues faced by those in the LGBTQ+ community.
Individuals who identify as LGBTQ+ and struggle with addiction may also have experienced trauma due to rejection from family or society. Trauma compounds the effects of substance abuse and can evolve into PTSD if not addressed. Therefore, it is essential to seek specialized substance abuse treatment designed to meet this community’s specific needs.
Vanity Wellness Center Understands the Needs of the LGBTQ+ Population
Vanity Wellness Center knows that abstaining from substance use is only the first step in a much longer journey towards health and wellness. Therefore, in addition to our intensive outpatient treatment program, we offer aftercare and relapse prevention interventions that are compassionate and person-centered.
The outpatient services at Vanity Wellness Center provide a safe and welcoming space for individuals to explore the root causes of their addiction and begin the process of recovery. In addition, these programs offer culturally competent counseling and group therapy sessions that can help LGBTQ+ individuals develop healthy coping mechanisms for dealing with stress and trauma.
We believe in treating the whole individual, not just the addiction. So if an individual is a member of the LGBTQ+ population and struggling with substance use, Vanity Wellness Center can help.
LGBTQ+ individuals have long been underserved and misunderstood by the medical community. This is especially true for substance use and mental health disorder treatment. This is largely due to a lack of cultural competency in the health care system. LGBTQ+ people often face discrimination and bias when seeking health care, which can deter them from seeking the help they need. Even when they do seek treatment, they often encounter providers who are not familiar with their unique needs. As a result, they may not receive the appropriate or relevant services they need to recover from their substance use disorder. At Vanity Wellness Center, our outpatient, aftercare, and relapse prevention programs provide a safe and welcoming space for individuals who identify as LGBTQ+ to get the help they need. We offer culturally competent care that takes into account the unique needs of the LGBTQ+ population. Call us today at (866) 587-1737.
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