Substance abuse is a worldwide problem that is increasing on a regular basis due to multiple factors including ease of access and availability. However, it is much more common for people who face increased struggles on a daily basis and are more prone to discrimination.
Many researches have shown that substance abuse is almost four times as high within the LGBTQ community than the population as a whole, and this can be attributed to the following reasons:
Communities who face discrimination usually face a lot more struggles and suffering within their life which could be the cause of their substance abuse. While most people are more accepting of a person’s sexual orientation, there are still many challenges for the LGBT community within their daily life. It is still widely viewed as something abnormal and is still stigmatized, making them fear of coming out and even battle themselves. Fearing the judgment of others, as well as not being accepted even by their families in some cases, causes a lot of psychological issues and pain that many people try to silence by abusing substances.
Lack of Support
Choosing to stay in the closet and avoid coming out is a decision many people decide on to avoid the stigma, labeling, and lack of support that comes with it. In many cases, gay people keep their sexual orientation a secret to avoid having to deal with the issue and, instead, face a life filled with loneliness and anxiety because of their fear. While there is a drastic change within society toward this issue, the fact that a person will be labeled or categorized within the LGBT community is a form of pressure that not everyone can handle. That lack of support can deliver a huge blow to a person’s self-esteem, making them resort to other substances to make them feel better.
It is quite often that the person struggling with their sexual orientation identifies with anti-gay stigmas resorting to self-loathing and hate which can be extremely dangerous and cause mental health issues. When the acceptance does not come from within, the person can continue to feel that something is wrong with them and choose to punish themselves for their thoughts or behaviors. Not feeling comfortable in their skin and choosing to deny the truth can cause such a disruption within their brain and bodies. Because of this they can suffer from internalized homophobia and choose to use substances as a tool to numb themselves and dismiss their thoughts and get rid of the feeling of self-hatred which is so difficult to live with. Being drunk or high allows LGBTQ individuals to temporarily forget their worries and just be whoever they want to be. In some cases, it is even normal to find that LGBTQ individuals, who are in denial of their sexual orientation, only allow themselves to engage in sexual activities with the same gender while under the effect of substances to be able to blame their actions on their intoxication instead of facing the truth.
Increased Stress Levels
One of the main reasons individuals resort to substance abuse is to help relieve or manage their high stress levels. Being under the effect of substances such as drugs and alcohol allows a person to simply enjoy the moment, put their troubles behind them, and stop worrying. Many researchers have shown that people within the LGBTQ community suffer from higher levels of stress due to the constant challenges they face within themselves. They also face challenges from the discrimination within the community, and the fear of being judged or outcasted based on their sexual attractions. Having to hide their identities or deal with struggles or judgments from others can immensely increase an individual’s stress level and make them try to relieve their anxiety and frustration through substance abuse. While different substances have various effects, it is a lot easier to manage or even forget about one’s troubles while under the influence.
The stigma behind LGBTQ individuals and a person’s sexual orientation is still evident. Many individuals still find the need to hide their sexual orientation and stay in the closet, keeping the secret to themselves, and struggle with psychological issues on a regular basis. With the above struggles within most LGBTQ individuals, it is more likely for them to resort to substance abuse to feel at ease and forget about their problems, even if only for a little while. This makes it essential to give more support and aid to LGBTQ individuals to prevent substance abuse.