Substance abuse is defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition, as being the recurrent use of alcohol or drugs to the point it causes health problems and makes one unable to meet their personal and work-related responsibilities. Dealing with substance abuse problems costs millions each year, but the human suffering is definitely the heaviest price to pay; both for the addict themselves and the people around them that love them and want them to be healthy.
Those within the LGBT+ community are two-to-three times more at risk of committing suicide than cis and hetero people. Young members of the community are more at risk of homelessness, mental health disorders, and sexually transmitted diseases. Older LGBT+ people are at risk of isolation, loneliness, and untreated health issues. Even high quality care facilities can often lack the knowledge necessary to help this section of the community.
The problem is exacerbated by the discrimination LGBT+ people deal with, which prevents them from getting equal housing and job opportunities. It also prevents them getting equal treatment with health insurance and vital social services.
Coping with Emotional Trauma
LGBT+ people can experience a wealth of trauma from simply coming out to their friends and family. Research has shown that LGBT+ children who were rejected after coming out to their families were four times as likely to suffer from drug addiction. It’s clear that when other, more traditional, ways to get self-help fail LGBT+ people, they become frustrated and turn to drink and drugs to cope with their problems.
Being able to numb the pain, if but for a moment, is preferable to dealing with the hatred they suffer on a daily basis; even if that relief comes with at the cost of their relationships, career, and dreams.
The U.S Census Bureau reports that LGBT+ individuals aged between 18 – 64 report higher levels of binge drinking than hetero people in the same age group. The National Center for Disease Control and Prevention defines binge drinking for men as drinking more than five drinks in two hours, and more than four drinks in two hours for women; an amount that would increase blood alcohol levels to over 0.08%.
On top of this, LGBT+ people are twice as likely to try illicit drugs as their hetero and cisgendered counterparts. Given that most illicit substances such as crack cocaine and crystal meth can cause instant addiction for most people, this has led to a sharp increase in the rate of drug abuse by those in the LGBT+ community.
Finally, LGBT+ people are 200x more likely to use tobacco than the general population. There is an irrefutable link between tobacco use and the risk of developing cancers such as lung cancer. When this is added to the reduced levels of insurance coverage for LGBT+ people, it’s easy to understand how – and why – so many lives are lost needlessly.