Studies indicate that when compared with the general population, LGBT, or lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people are more likely to use alcohol and drugs, have higher rates of substance abuse, are less likely to abstain from use, and are more likely to continue heavy drinking later into life. Some studies have found that approximately 30 percent of all lesbians have an alcohol abuse problem. Studies that compared gay men and lesbians with heterosexuals have found that 20 to 25% of the gay men and lesbians are heavy alcohol users, compared with 3 to 10% of the heterosexuals. Marijuana and cocaine use has been found higher among lesbians than among heterosexual women.

Although LGBT persons use and abuse alcohol and all types of drugs, certain drugs seem to be more popular in the LGBT community than in the general community. Studies have found that gay men and men who have sex with men (MSM) are significantly more likely to have used marijuana, psychedelics, hallucinogens, stimulants, sedatives, cocaine, and barbiturates. Party drugs, such as “Ecstasy”, “Special K” or ketamine, and GHB (gamma hydroxybutyrate), are all increasing in popularity among some segments of the LGBT population. Party drugs are often used during circuit parties and raves, and they can impair judgment and result in risky sexual behavior. Abuse of methamphetamine has increased dramatically in recent years among some segments of the LGBT community. HIV and hepatitis C infections are linked with methamphetamine use.

Understanding the unique issues and appropriate terminology is essential to understanding LGBT clients. Sexual orientation, sexual behavior, gender identity, and gender role are different concepts. Sexual orientation is the affectional or loving attraction to another person. Heterosexuality is the attraction to persons of the opposite sex; homosexuality, to persons of the same sex; and bisexuality, to both sexes. Sexual orientation can be considered as ranging along a continuum from same-sex attraction only at one end of the continuum to opposite-sex attraction only at the other end. Sexual behavior, or sexual activity, differs from sexual orientation and alone does not define someone as an LGBT individual. Sexual identity is the personal and unique way that a person perceives his or her own sexual desires and sexual expressions. Biological sex is the biological distinction between men and women. Gender is the concept of maleness and masculinity or femaleness and femininity.

Gender identity is the sense of self as male or female and does not refer to one’s sexual orientation or gender role. Gender role describes the behaviors that are viewed as masculine or feminine by a particular culture. Transgender individuals are those who conform to the gender role expectations of the opposite sex or those who may clearly identify their gender as the opposite of their biological sex. In common usage, transgender usually refers to people in the transsexual group that may include people who are contemplating or preparing for sexual reassignment. A transgender person may be sexually attracted to males, females, or both. Sexual orientation and gender identity are independent variables in an individual’s definition of himself or herself. How an individual learns to acknowledge, accept, and then act on a sexual orientation that is different from that of the majority is shaped by cultural, religious, societal, and familial factors. Transgender clients face a somewhat similar challenge in coming to terms with a gender identity that differs from their biological gender.

An LGBT individual differs in the effect of sexual orientation on self-definition and in the degree of affiliation with other LGBT persons. LGBT people and homosexual behavior are found in almost all cultures and throughout history. Homosexuality was considered a mental illness until 1973 when the American Psychiatric Association dropped the classification of homosexuality as a mental illness. It is now considered a normal variation of human sexual and emotional expression, allowing, it is hoped, a non-pathological and non-prejudicial view of the LGBT community. Effective treatment for addiction for the LGBT community must take these and many other factors into consideration. If you or someone you love is suffering from addiction, call Step One Recovery today.