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Alcohol & Health
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Updated on March 23, 2022
4 min read

The LGBTQ+ Community & Alcoholism

Does the LGBTQ+ Community Face a Higher Risk of Alcoholism?

LGBTQ+ is the most common abbreviation used to describe all communities included in the LGBTTTQQIAA.

These communities include:

  • Lesbian
  • Gay
  • Bisexual
  • Transgender
  • Transexual
  • Two-Spirit
  • Queer
  • Questioning
  • Intersex
  • Asexual
  • Ally
  • Pansexual
  • Agender
  • Gender Queer
  • Bigender
  • Gender Variant
  • Pangender

This is not a complete list. The words used to describe these identities and communities are constantly developing and expanding. People may identify as something that is not included in our list. Other all-encompassing terms include “Queer Community” and “Rainbow Community.” 

Scientific studies may refer to people in these groups as “sexual minorities” or “gender minorities.”

People who identify as LGBTQ+ often face social stigma, discrimination, and other unfair treatment. This treatment usually isn’t experienced by their heterosexual counterparts. They also face a higher risk of harassment, violence, and hate crimes.

As a result, the LGBTQ+ community is significantly impacted by alcoholism and substance abuse. 

Up to 25 percent of the LGBTQ+ community has a moderate alcohol dependency. In comparison, five to ten percent of the general population has moderate alcohol dependency. 


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What Are the Reasons for LGBTQ+ Alcoholism?

There are many reasons the LGBTQ+ struggles with alcoholism.

One is due to the bigotry and discrimination that the community faces. This is especially true for the older generation of LGBTQ+ members.

Discrimination can lead to mental health issues, including anxiety and depression. Those affected may experience distress, fear, and feelings of low self-esteem.

Many people turn to binge drinking and illicit drugs to self-medicate.

Self-medication often makes mental health illnesses worse. This can lead to more drinking and drug use, creating a downward spiral.

Many people in the LGBTQ+ community do not have the same support systems as their heterosexual counterparts.

Often, members of the LGBTQ+ community are prevented from attending faith-based support systems. Or they must hide their sexual orientation to participate. 

Many queer people also lose support from their families and loved ones when they come out. Homelessness is a big problem among young members of the LGBTQ+ community. They often run away or are shunned by their families and loved ones.

Awareness of the problems the LGBTQ+ community face is growing. There are various LGBTQ+ specific treatments to meet their unique needs.

Types of LGBTQ+ Friendly Addiction Treatment Programs and Resources

Treatment facilities are becoming more sensitive to specific groups. Many facilities provide programs or services that cater to LGBTQ+ people. 

If you, a friend, or a loved one is experiencing alcoholism, you are not alone. Achieving sobriety is a challenging journey that may require professional help and guidance.

Here are several types of LGBTQ+ friendly addiction treatment programs:


An LGBTQ+ rehab center or treatment program is designed to help the LGBTQ+ community. They usually provide programs categorized by sexual orientation or gender identity.

They are often staffed by LGBTQ+ medical professionals.

LGBTQ+ rehab center staff understand the specific stressors that the community deals with. Staff members who are not part of the LGBTQ+ community are trained to understand their clients’ particular needs.

An LGBTQ+ addiction center provides the typical range of treatments, including medical detox and therapy.

Extra support addresses specific issues like homophobia, transphobia, and familial rejection. 

Dual-Diagnosis Therapy

Many LGBTQ+ alcohol and drug treatment programs address other conditions in addition to the addiction.

Patients may be addicted to more than one substance or experience co-occurring mental health disorders. They may also have additional health issues, such as HIV/AIDS or hepatitis.

Most specialty treatment centers offer dual diagnosis treatment. 

Counseling Services for Loved Ones

Many LGBTQ+ friendly rehab centers offer extra counseling for partners and families of patients. Traditional family therapy and marriage counseling often isn’t suitable.

During therapy, LGBTQ+ friendly counselors consider a patient’s sexual orientation and how it may affect relationships.


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How Do These Programs Work?

LGBTQ+ friendly alcohol and drug centers address the unique needs and concerns of people in the community. Treatment facilities provide safe, comfortable, and non-judgmental environments.

During treatment, the standard concerns of addiction are addressed. Any unique issues that LGBTQ+ members face are also treated.

Individualized addiction treatment is more effective than a one-size-fits-all approach. This is especially true for LGBTQ+ members who struggle with extra challenges during treatment.

LGBTQ+ friendly facilities offer more targeted treatments. 


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Benefits of Specialized LGBTQ+ Rehab Centers

LGBTQ+ community members can complete alcohol and substance abuse treatment at conventional rehab centers. However, there are advantages to receiving treatment designed to meet the specific needs of LGBTQ+ people.

LGBTQ+-friendly facilities often use staff trained in handling issues that LGBTQ+ people face. Traditional treatment centers may be unfamiliar or uncomfortable with these.

Members of the LGBTQ+ community may feel isolated or ostracized with standard treatment. However, at LGBTQ+ centers, patients are more likely to feel a sense of belonging.

Counselors working at LGBTQ+ facilities have a strong understanding of life experiences that many LGBTQ+ members face. 

Rehab centers that cater to LGBTQ+ communities often have more complex goals than mainstream addiction facilities.

The same primary goal is to help people break their addictions. LGBTQ+ friendly centers offer services that can help address identity issues that often link to a patient’s substance abuse.

Some people may also need to explore their sexual identity to understand their alcohol or drug use.

Updated on March 23, 2022
6 sources cited
Updated on March 23, 2022
All Alcoholrehabhelp content is medically reviewed or fact checked to ensure as much factual accuracy as possible.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only link to reputable media sites, academic research institutions and, whenever possible, medically peer reviewed studies.
  1. Green, Kelly E, and Brian A Feinstein., Substance use in lesbian, gay, and bisexual populations: an update on empirical research and implications for treatment., Psychology of addictive behaviors : journal of the Society of Psychologists in Addictive Behaviors vol. 26,2 : 265-78,
  2. Hughes, Tonda L et al., The Influence of Gender and Sexual Orientation on Alcohol Use and Alcohol-Related Problems: Toward a Global Perspective.,  Alcohol research : current reviews vol. 38,1 : 121-32,
  3. McCabe, Sean Esteban et al., Sexual orientation, substance use behaviors and substance dependence in the United States., Addiction (Abingdon, England) vol. 104,8 : 1333-45,
  4. Substance Use and SUDs in LGBTQ* Populations, National Institute on Drug Abuse, 
  5. “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT).” SAMHSA - Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services,
  6. Types of Treatment Programs, National Institute on Drug Abuse, 3 Jun. 2020,
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