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Does the LGBTQ Community Face a Higher Risk of Alcoholism?
Due to the unique challenges members of the LGBTQ community face, such as discrimination and hate crimes, some have turned to drugs such as alcohol to counter trauma. This has led to alcoholism in the LGBTQ community becoming a very serious problem. Rates of binge drinking, alcoholism, and alcohol abuse are all higher when compared to heterosexuals. 20 to 25% of the LGBTQ community have a moderate to a severe drinking problem, compared to 12.7% of the general population.
Research suggests alcoholism and alcohol abuse is the result of minority stress. Minority stress is defined as victimization or distress and hostile harassment faced by specific social groups. This targeted aggression can deeply wound members of the group, causing them to respond differently to the world around them. Members of the transgender community in particular are subjected to bigotry in many forms, including discrimination, loss of family, and physical and sexual violence, making them especially likely to turn to alcohol to cope.
Another common theory on the higher frequency of substance abuse among LGBTQ individuals is the importance of gay bars to the community, which are often viewed as a safe social space to gather with other like-minded people.
Risk Factors for Alcoholism in the LGBTQ Community
Risk factors for alcoholism can stem from untreated trauma and co-occurring disorders faced by members of the LGBTQ community. Co-occurring disorders can occur in response to minority stress in members of the LGBTQ community. Some of these stressors can arise from childhood trauma or invalidation with identity. Studies have shown members of the LGBTQ population have more co-occurring disorders when compared to their heterosexual counterparts, especially during adolescence. Up to 52% of LGBTQ youth attempt self-harm, 44% considered suicide, and 42% sought medical assistance for mental distress.
Co-occurring disorders and effects of minority abuse commonly faced in members of the LGBTQ groups include:
- Sexual assault or abuse
- Running away from home
- Eating disorders
- Low self-esteem
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Women, LGBTQ and Alcoholism
Men and women in the LGBTQ community consume alcohol at different amounts and for different reasons. Women may be subjected to unique gender-based homophobia and sexual violence, which may create wounds and alcohol dependency. There is also significant variations of alcohol consumption between women in the LGBTQ community. For example, older lesbian women consume higher amounts of alcohol compared to younger lesbian and bisexual women.
A recent study revealed 25% of bisexual women were heavy drinkers in 2009 compared to other members of the LGBTQ community. In this study, heavy drinking was defined as 4 or 5 more drinks in 2 hours for women and 5 to 8 drinks for men. Binge drinking can easily transition to alcohol dependency if the person drinking feels they need it during challenging life experiences.
If drinking becomes a crutch to handle life’s challenges, that may signal the onset of alcohol addiction. Contact treatment providers now to discover options for treatment.
Healing in Rehab Facilities
Attempting to detox from alcohol at home is absolutely not suggested. Alcohol withdrawal creates uncomfortable side effects that can be highly destabilizing, and in some cases, even deadly. Treatment providers can direct those needing help with alcoholism to rehab facilities that assist those struggling with substance abuse. Many facilities offer programs specifically for the LGBTQ community, with treatments geared to their background.
Treatments in rehab facilities surrounding self-love and self-esteem can be powerful in encouraging core change. Patients can connect with like-minded people and gain insight on what they have learned in treatment. Therapists can look for any co-occurring disorders and treat them as they treat alcoholism.
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Finding Support Today
The road to recovery from alcohol addiction does not have to be difficult, lonely or embarrassing. If you or a family member is trapped in addiction and have co-occurring disorders, you can find support and medications you need. Treatment providers will use their knowledge to connect you to LGBTQ-sensitive facilities. Achieve change, and heal your life.
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