LGBTQ+ population at higher risk for addiction

Bailey Workman
News Staff Writer
bworkman@unca.edu

According to research referenced in the Textbook of Addiction Treatment: International Perspectives, the LGBTQ+ addiction rate falls around 30 percent, while the heterosexual population suffers an addiction rate of around 10 percent .

The same research found the LGBTQ+ community suffers unique stressors, such as rejection, violence, harassment and discrimination.

Some students such as Justin Day, a senior drama student from Greensboro, believe social circumstances play a large role in the increased amount of LGBTQ+ addiction.

“A lot of people turn to addiction in times of mental and emotional crisis, or at least start using things, not to mention the high rate of queer poverty. Not only queer poverty, but the high rates of mental illness, the high rates of homelessness and finding means to make money, a  lot of times that’s where a lot of things turn to,” said Day, who identifies as homosexual and transgender, specifically nonbinary.

According to a study published in the 2009 edition of Addiction, being a target of discrimination increases the risk of addiction, and legal protection of the LGBTQ+ community does not extend far.

Lorena Russell, an associate professor in the English department, identifies as a lesbian and agrees the legality of discrimination contributes as a stressor.

“Well I think these problems are societal. They’re created by our society and could be corrected by our society and I think we need to change things on multiple levels,” said Russell. “Bills such as HB2, North Carolina’s recent ruling on limiting access to bathrooms of one’s choice, that’s something that can impact a person every day in very significant kinds of ways.”

Ryan Miller, a drama student from Charlotte who identifies as questioning, said the outcast nature of being a minority drives some to seek comfort elsewhere.

“I feel like we need, not comfort, but just something that will be there,” Miller said. “It usually ends up being something along the lines of addictive drugs that are damaging to both mental and physical aspects of health.”

According to research published in Journal of Substance Abuse, health care  providers such as substance abuse counselors are not often knowledgeable about LGBTQ+ specific issues, which can lead to bias or ignorance for addicts seeking treatment.

Many in the LGBTQ+ community who may not be addicted to any substances are close with someone who identifies as LGBTQ+ and has an addiction, such as Russell, making the issue truly community-wide.

“I have several friends who are in recovery program and again, it’s the policies. It’s the struggle.” Russell said. “It’s the challenges of how society inhibits and restricts and tries to control our identities that is wreaking havoc on my friends.”

 

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