Substance Abuse Is High In LGBTQ Communities
The mental health issues that impact lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) individuals do not get the attention they deserve. Hot topics in recent years have been about marriage and work-place discrimination. While media focus is important in creating positive changes in equality and in the struggles of the community as a whole, very little attention is given to mental health issues. This needs to change.
There is a disproportionately high rate of substance use by gay and transgender individuals. There is not much solid data available on LGBTQ substance abuse, but it is estimated that 20-30% are substance abusers compared to about 9% of the general population. The lack of information about this group of people is a big part of the problem, along with few culturally sensitive, competent health care providers available to treat those in need.
Provided below are gathered statistics about the rates of substance use in gay and transgender communities. These are only educated guesses about the extent of the problem, but they give some idea as to the scope researchers believe substance abuse has in the LGBTQ community.
*Alcohol: Twenty-five percent of gay and transgender people abuse alcohol, compared to 5 to 10 percent of the general population.
*Drugs: Men who have sex with men are 3.5 times more likely to use marijuana than men who do not have sex with men. These men also are 12.2 times more likely to use amphetamines than men who do not have sex with men. They are also 9.5 times more likely to use heroin than men who do not have sex with men.
The Affordable Healthcare Act may eventually help many LGBTQ communities tackle the problem by making mental health therapy more affordable and accessible. Mental health treatments should be available equal to other health services. It may still take considerable time and effort to fight the persistent discrimination imposed by society on individuals who identify as LGBTQ.
Gay and lesbian adults are roughly twice as likely as the general population to be without health insurance coverage, and rates of uninsurance are even higher for transgender and bisexual individuals.
Working to end disproportionately high rate of substance abuse will not be easy, but is a necessary step in the movement toward equality.
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