Addiction Linked to Bias

Does discrimination cause substance abuse?

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Someone who’s feeling disenfranchised may look to drugs and alcohol for escape. At least that’s according to a new report from the Center for American Progress in Washington D.C. In a shocking study, the center estimates that as many as 30 percent of LGBT people abuse substances as the result of stress that may be linked to discrimination. This is compared to less than 10 percent of the general population.

“The stress that comes from daily battles with discrimination and stigma is a principle driver of these higher rates of substance use, as gay and transgender people turn to tobacco, alcohol, and other substances as a way to cope with these challenges,” the study says. “And a lack of culturally competent health care services also fuels high substance-use rates among gay and transgender people.”

In many cases, poor health care is to blame, that’s why the center suggests that the level of care afforded to LGBT people should better address these issues, as well as any other concerns that are LGBT centric. The center also advocates for policies that help to end anti-gay and transgender discrimination.

Here are some highlights of the new report:

Gay and transgender people smoke tobacco up to 200 percent more than their heterosexual and nontransgender peers.

Twenty-five percent of gay and transgender people abuse alcohol, compared to 5 to 10 percent of the general population.

Men who have sex with men are 3.5 times more likely to use marijuana than men who do not have sex with men.

These men also are 12.2 times more likely to use amphetamines than men who do not have sex with men.

They are also 9.5 times more likely to use heroin than men who do not have sex with men.

“Many gay and transgender people live with a high level of stress that comes from social prejudice and discriminatory laws in areas of daily life such as employment, relationship recognition, and health care,” says the report. “Second, a lack of cultural competency in the health care system discourages gay and transgender people from seeking treatment for substance abuse, and – if they do seek help – often leads to inappropriate or irrelevant services.”

The report also blames targeted marketing by alcohol and tobacco companies for adding to the epidemic, saying that they exploit the connection many LGBT people may make at bars and nightclubs.

So what do you think? Is prejudice to blame for excessive drinking and drug abuse in the LGBT community?