Addiction Recovery - Trends and Statistics - Relationships in Recovery

The LGBTQIA+ Community and Addiction Centers

Addiction treatment for LGBTQIA+ people must be safe and affirming to be effective. The Forge Recovery Center offers a dedicated LGBQIA+ group.

The LGBTQIA+ Community and Addiction Centers

Table of contents

Written by

Brian MooreBrian Moore

Content Writer

Reviewed by

Jeremy ArztJeremy Arzt

Chief Clinical Officer

July 21, 2022

The Forge Recovery Center

LGBTQIA+ youth and adults often face discrimination, ostracization, and harassment that cisgendered heterosexuals will not encounter. They are often the target of violent crime. They are also overrepresented in the foster care system.

These experiences also leave LGBTQIA+ people at higher risk for suicide and substance use disorders (SUDs). Members of the LGBTQIA+ may have trauma simply from being who they are in a hostile environment, and any psychiatric care they receive should be tailored with an understanding of their unique experiences.

In recent years, addiction centers have begun realizing that specialized groups and therapies may be necessary to help LGBTQIA+ individuals recover fully. These interventions understand that the LGBTQIA+ community experiences distinctive traumas, and they predominantly focus on the mental health concerns that contribute to the development of a SUD.

LGBTQIA+ Trauma and Substance Abuse

Members of the LGBTQIA+ are at higher risk for victimization in some of society’s most brutal crimes. Research has shown that people who identify as LGBTQIA+ are four times more likely than cisgender heterosexuals to experience violent assaults, whether physical or sexual.

Additionally, LGBTQIA+ youths and adults are significantly more likely to face discrimination and harassment from peers, strangers, and even family members. It should be no surprise that people who identify as LGBTQIA+ are much more likely to suffer from PTSD and other mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.

As treatment surrounding SUDs has evolved over the last decade, providers have begun to take a trauma-informed approach to care. A trauma-informed philosophy recognizes that a SUD is not a condition that develops out of thin air but is the culmination of lived experiences that have led someone to cope with traumatic events or negative thought patterns through drugs and alcohol.

LGBTQIA+ Mental Health Concerns

Due to the traumatic life experiences that LGBTQIA+ individuals disproportionately experience in society, a trauma-informed approach may be beneficial or even necessary to ensure they receive the care they need as they recover from a SUD.

Since members of the LGBTQIA+ are much more likely to receive a dual diagnosis than cisgender heterosexuals, mental health treatment is crucial.

When mental health conditions and SUDs intermingle, recovery can become more complicated. If someone’s mental health worsens, they are more likely to turn to drugs and alcohol to numb the pain. Conversely, if the SUD worsens, it will take a toll on their mental and physical health by making it more difficult for them to maintain relationships, go to work consistently, and take care of themselves. Treatment for both SUD and mental health conditions is vital.

When seeking treatment, LGBTQIA+ individuals may want to choose an addiction center that is well-versed in treating people with dual diagnoses. For a full recovery, both the SUD and the mental health disorder must be treated simultaneously so that the conditions do not continue to exacerbate each other. 

Targeted Treatment Programs

Although recent studies have shown that LGBTQIA+ individuals have better treatment outcomes when they undergo treatment with other members of the LGBTQIA+ community, only 7.4% of treatment centers in 2010 had specialized LGBTQIA+ programs.

While those numbers have hopefully grown in the last decade, specialized programs that allow LGBTQIA+ to engage with their peers in group therapies and other modalities are still scarce in the United States.

This is truly unfortunate because targeted treatment has proven to be effective. LGBTQIA+ people often have an easier time understanding each other’s struggles. Such understanding of the LGBTQIA+ experience is often sorely lacking among people in the sexual and gender majorities. 

Due to the specific abuse and harassment that LGBTQIA+ face, they may benefit from being around others who understand their pain while they seek to share their stories and heal from their trauma. After all, many of them have suffered abuse from the sexual and gender majority. It is not surprising that, when placed in therapies that require vulnerability to work, they may often feel uncomfortable sharing their experiences for fear of judgment or further abuse if their LGBTQIA+ peers are not present.

The Importance of Acceptance

Many members of the LGBTQIA+ community have faced a disproportionate level of judgment, discrimination, and trauma. Peer support is always important in recovery, and for the LGBTQIA+, so is a treatment center that is affirming and sensitive to the needs of people with marginalized identities.

Some members of the LGBTQIA+ have religious trauma and may be averse to treatment programs whose philosophies are rooted in religion. Others are practicing members of their religions and may benefit greatly from religious-based addiction programs such as the 12-Step program. This shows the importance of treatment professionals working with potential LGBTQIA+ clients to ensure that they are placed in a program that makes them feel comfortable.

Receiving treatment for a SUD should never include attempts to change one’s gender or sexual identity. Instead, treatment should be focused on addressing the SUD and any underlying mental health conditions. A good treatment team should reinforce that an individual’s sexual or gender identity is not something for which they should feel shame, guilt, or self-hate.

Providers must be conscious of the traumas and experiences LGBTQIA+ individuals face and ensure they feel accepted.

The Forge Recovery Center Has a Dedicated LGBTQIA+ Support Group

At The Forge Recovery Center, we understand the traumas the LGBTQIA+ community often faces in their daily lives. The abuse LGBTQIA+ individuals incur for their sexual or gender identity can be overwhelming, and no one should feel judged for being who they are.

We are one of a few programs in the United States that offer trauma-informed sexual and gender-specific care. We are committed to reaffirming gender and sexual identities in our treatment community and do not tolerate discrimination. If you seek treatment at The Forge, you will be able to recover in an environment free of judgment or shame. You can develop lasting relationships with people who will cheer you on through recovery. We are here to remind you that you are not alone, and we will stand by you as you rebuild a life of happiness and health.

To ask questions about treatment, contact The Forge Recovery Center today.

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