In the midst of America’s Pride Month celebrations, it is essential to acknowledge the challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ community, particularly in relation to substance use disorder. Numerous studies have revealed that individuals within the LGBTQ+ community are more susceptible to substance abuse, including alcohol and illicit drugs, due to various factors such as stigma, discrimination, and minority stress. For instance, a nationwide survey conducted in the United States discovered that LGBTQ+ adults were nearly twice as likely to have used illicit drugs compared to their heterosexual counterparts. Additionally, they were more prone to engage in binge drinking and heavy drinking.
During a Grieving Out Loud podcast episode with Emily’s Hope, Jeff Grossman shared his experience of grappling with substance use disorder since the age of 22. Grossman confessed to using alcohol as a means to cope with the shame he felt surrounding his sexual identity. He explained, “I realized when I drank, it took my mind off of those things. I was able to be comfortable in my own skin. For almost a decade, my drinking became more and more destructive.” Thanks to an Emily’s Hope treatment scholarship, Grossman has now embarked on his recovery journey. However, his story is not an isolated one, as many LGBTQ+ individuals have opened up about their struggles with substance use disorder on Grieving Out Loud.
Edward Krumpotich, for instance, spoke candidly about the self-hatred he experienced as a gay individual, stating, “I knew I hated myself at times because I was gay. When I was in high school, I would walk around to girls and think, ‘Come on Eddie. You can do it. You can do it. Be attracted to this girl.’ Then a guy would walk by, and I would go, ‘Oh hey. No, no, no.’ I hid my identity because who I was was not good enough.” Krumpotich began experimenting with methamphetamine at the age of 19, influenced by the prevalence of meth use within the gay community.
Tragically, crystal meth has been a significant health concern for the LGBTQ+ community since the late 1990s, and its popularity persists to this day. Alcohol, marijuana, opioids, and methamphetamine remain the most commonly used substances among LGBTQ+ adults. According to the National Institutes of Health, in 2020, 21.8% had an alcohol use disorder, 41.3% used marijuana, and 6.7% misused opioids within the LGBTQ+ community. Comparatively, heterosexual individuals reported lower rates of 11% for alcohol use disorder, 18.7% for marijuana use, and 3.6% for opioid misuse.
Grossman emphasizes that one of the contributing factors to these higher substance abuse rates is the presence of mental health problems within the LGBTQ+ community. He states, “In the LGBTQ+ community, suicide rates are already much, much higher. Society, for example, you’ll hear people denigrate this community and make them feel sub-par. When they turn to mind-altering substances, they find comfort in that.”
For those struggling with substance use disorder or for their loved ones, it is crucial to know that help is available. On the Emily’s Hope website, a comprehensive list of helpful resources has been compiled to support individuals seeking assistance and guidance in their journey toward recovery.