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The LGBTQ+ Community & Alcoholism

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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.

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Updated on March 23, 2022
6 sources cited
  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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