3 Challenges of Battling Addiction in the LGBTQA Community

by Patricia Sarmiento – June 21, 2016

3 Challenges of Battling Addiction in the LGBTQA Community

If you or a loved one is a member of the LGBTQA community and is also battling addiction, you’re acutely aware of the challenges you face in achieving successful recovery. LGBTQA individuals face obstacles accessing basic human needs such as healthcare under normal circumstances.

Coupled with the stigma surrounding addiction, the challenges of finding the right treatment options suitable to address the unique psychosocial needs of the LGBTQA community may seem insurmountable. Here’s a look at three key challenges facing the LGBTQA community when it comes to battling addiction.

LGBTQA Individuals Are at an Increased Risk of Substance Abuse and Addiction

One of the primary challenges for the LGBTQA community in overcoming addiction is simply that they are at a higher risk of abusing substances and developing an addiction in the first place. Members of the LGBTQA community may turn to drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism to numb the emotional upheaval they may feel as a result of their gender dysphoria or sexuality, particularly if their family and friends are not accepting.

Overcoming addiction is incredibly challenging when the underlying factors contributing to substance abuse are not addressed. For LGBTQA individuals, that means accepting who they are and learning positive coping mechanisms for dealing with social stressors that arise.

Access to Healthcare is Inadequate (or Sometimes Entirely Unavailable)

Studies have shown that members of the LGBTQA community have far less access to adequate healthcare than comparable members of the mainstream community. They may have lost their job after coming out to their employer and lost their health insurance coverage as a result; thus, they may be unable to afford healthcare and avoid seeking treatment.

Or, they may have been denied services from healthcare providers. Discrimination is illegal, yet it happens. The National Women’s Law Center reports, “Approximately 8% of LGB individuals, nearly 27% of transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals, and almost 20% of HIV-positive individuals report being denied needed health care outright.” Those who do receive care may be treated differently and not receive care appropriate to the reason they’re seeking treatment. For those battling addiction, getting in the door to treatment with qualified and accepting providers is key.

Lack of Social Support Systems to Support Recovery

One of the most important aspects of recovery for anyone battling addiction is having a strong social support system – trusted friends and family members who are aware of their addiction and offering emotional support and other assistance to help them develop alternate coping mechanisms, avoid relapse, and generally provide understanding and unconditional love.

But for LGBTQ individuals, these social constructs are often already damaged. They may have lost friends or family members who don’t support their lifestyle; they may lose even more when remaining friends and family members find out about their addiction. Ideally, friends and family offer compassion and encouragement when they learn of a loved one’s addiction; in reality, that’s not often the case.

Overcoming addiction isn’t easy for anyone. LGBTQA individuals are facing not only the usual stigma and judgement surrounding substance abuse but also the social stigma, discrimination, and other challenges of being LGBTQA in today’s society. When these three key challenges can be overcome, LGBTQA people struggling with addiction have a great chance of achieving recovery when they commit to an appropriate rehabilitation program.

Pixabay by johnhain

Patricia Sarmiento loves swimming and running. She channels her love of fitness and wellness into blogging about health and health-related topics. She played sports in high school and college and continues to make living an active lifestyle a goal for her and her family. She lives with her husband, two children, and their shih tzu in Maryland.