Addiction treatment for LGBT

The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community requires safety and equity when seeking addiction treatment. More here on how LGBT people seeking addiction treatment can get help and what to expect from a successful treatment program.

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The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community are one of the most discriminated against populations in the United States today. Unfortunately, LGBT individuals are also slightly more likely than the general population to abuse drugs or alcohol, making them more at risk of developing substance abuse disorders. Not surprisingly, LGBT individuals are also less likely to seek or remain in addiction treatment for fear of being discriminated against or harassed by both other clients and addiction specialists.

How can members of the LGBT community find and receive quality addiction treatment? What can you expect during addiction treatment?  And what are some of the unique barriers to getting help?  We explore here.  Then, we invite your questions about addiction treatment at the end.

LGBT and addiction treatment

Most traditional addiction treatment programs place a high emphasis on the privacy and safety of the clients, and have a strict no-discrimination policy. However, this doesn’t always stop discrimination, nor does it usually make LGBT individuals more comfortable in treatment. In fact, environments where LGBT individuals don’t feel understood are actually a hindrance to recovery.

So where can you go for quality addiction treatment?  LGBT community members have suitable treatment options which include:

Psychological outpatient treatment – LGBT individuals may be more comfortable speaking to a licensed mental health professional in a more private setting, without others around. This gives them the opportunity to be open about their lifestyles without fear of being ridiculed, harassed, or judged by other recovering addicts. Keep in mind, however, that outpatient treatment may not be as effective as some other types of treatments, and the risk of relapse is often higher.

LGBT addiction support groups – Talking with peers who are understanding where you’re coming from is a great option for LGBT individuals. It gives recovering addicts a safe and comfortable environment to share their experiences as both LGBT individuals and recovering addicts. Unfortunately, though, these types of groups may not be available in all areas.

LGBT residential addiction treatment facilities – A handful of inpatient addiction treatment facilities around the country are beginning to offer treatment programs specifically for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals. These are often separated into different groups by gender or assumed gender. Like LGBT support groups, though, these types of addiction treatment programs are not always available in all areas. In general, areas with a high LGBT population will usually offer these types of services.

LGBT drug addiction treatment

Like other types of treatment, LGBT drug addiction treatment requires a multi-faceted approach with a few very important steps in order to be effective. The basic LGBT drug addiction treatment steps are listed below.

STEP 1: Evaluation and assessment

An initial evaluation and assessment of addicted LGBT individuals is required to determine the severity and extent of a person’s addiction.  An evaluation may also uncover underlying mental health disorders, including depression or anxiety that can contribute to drug abuse. Then, an addiction treatment care plan is also usually created during the initial evaluation and assessment. This usually includes the type of treatment needed, the duration of treatment, and any other social services that may be needed during recovery.

STEP 2: Detox

Medical detox is a crucial step in addiction treatment. Drug or alcohol dependence triggers withdrawal when you reduce or stop dosing because the brain and central nervous system have adapted to the presence of drugs and alcohol.  Without the drug or alcohol, the brain rebounds and needs time to re-create a chemical balance.

Withdrawal from drugs and alcohol is often uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous. Because of this, LGBT individuals are often encouraged to go through withdrawal in a dedicated detox facility. This allows medical professionals to supervise them for the duration of the process and possibly administer medications to help relieve withdrawal symptoms.

STEP 3: Main treatment therapies

Psychological and/or pharmacological treatments form the backbone of any addiction treatment program.  Individual behavioral or psychotherapy are two of the most common methods used during LGBT drug addiction treatment. Group therapy with other LGBT individuals can also be helpful, as can family therapy. Medication-assisted treatment may also be effective for some recovering LGBT addicts, particularly those with severe addictions.

STEP 4: Aftercare

Aftercare is an important part of LGBT addiction treatment, and it greatly decreases the chances of relapse. LGBT individuals who have completed an addiction treatment program will usually be required to attend weekly outpatient therapy sessions and continue taking their medications. Transitional living facilities, or halfway houses, can also provide a safe and sober living environment for recovering addicts until they are ready to live on their own.  An aftercare plan can also link you to additional resources such as social services, vocational training, or job placement.

LGBT addiction treatment barriers

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals often have a number of barriers to addiction treatment. These barriers, if not overcome, can seriously decrease the chances of a LGBT individual seeking or remaining in addiction treatment.  Common barriers to LGBT addiction treatment barriers can include:.

  • Failed past addiction treatment
  • Fear of ridicule or harassment due to their lifestyle
  • Financial difficulties
  • Perceived stigma surrounding addiction treatment
  • Work, school, or family responsibilities

Addicted LGBT

Some addicted LGBT individuals may not know where to turn when they are ready for addiction treatment. So where can an addicted LGBT go for addiction treatment?

1. One of the best places to turn to first is a primary physician, psychologists clinic, hospital, or other medical facility. Medical and mental health professionals will typically be able to determine the extent of the problem as well as recommend suitable treatment options.

2. Local LGBT community centers or organizations may also be able to point addicted LGBT individuals in the right direction.

3. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) also has a convenient substance abuse treatment facility locator on their website. This can be used to find all local substance abuse centers, or even just facilities that specifically offer services for gay or lesbian individuals.

LGBT addiction questions

We strive to provide a non-judgemental and informative environment for all of our readers. If you or your loved ones have any LGBT addiction questions, please don’t hesitate to leave them in the comments section below. We’ll address each of your questions and concerns as soon as we can.

Reference Sources: CNN: Pew Study: Muslims and Gays most discriminated in America
Pride Institute: LGBT drug addiction treatment
SAMHSA: A Provider’s Introduction to Substance Abuse Treatment for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Individuals
SMHSA: Find Facilities Near You
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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