LGBTQ-Friendly Alcohol Rehab Programs
Those in the LGBTQ+ community who are struggling with alcohol addiction (also known as alcoholism) may benefit from evidence-based alcohol rehab programs. Research shows that lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals are at a greater risk of developing mental health and substance use disorders than people who identify as heterosexual.1 In 2020, a national survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reported that almost 3.9 million adults who identified as lesbian, gay, or bisexual had been diagnosed with both a mental health and substance use disorder.2Those in the LGBTQ+ community may also experience unique challenges when seeking addiction treatment. Luckily, specialized programs for LGBTQ+ individuals can serve as an effective treatment program for alcohol use disorder and co-occurring mental health disorders.10 Understanding how LGBTQ-friendly alcohol rehabs work and how to access them can help you begin your journey to recovery.
Addiction in the LGBTQ+ Community
In 2020, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health revealed that more than 41% of sexual minority adults (lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals) reported using marijuana in the past year, versus approximately 18% of the overall adult population. 3 Substance use and misuse. Almost 22% of sexual minority adults were diagnosed with an alcohol use disorder in the past year, compared with just 11% of the overall adult population, and nearly twice as many lesbian, gay, or bisexual adults misused opioids (prescription or illicit) compared with the overall adult population. 3
Disparities in hazardous drinking are often attributed to the stigma and discrimination that many people who identify as sexual and gender minorities often face. 4, 10 Like many other social determinants of health, anti-LGBT stigma can increase psychological distress and influence maladaptive coping mechanisms, thereby negatively impacting their health. 4, 11 Many turn to alcohol or other substances as a coping strategy. 4
Co-Occurring Mental Health Disorder in the LGBTQ+ Community
Not only are there high rates of mental health and substance use disorders among LGB individuals, but there are large treatment gaps as well. 2 Common risk factors that can contribute to both substance use and mental health disorders include, discrimination stress, trauma, and environmental factors, all of which people in the LGBTQ+ community are at increased risk of experiencing. 5, 11 People who identify as lesbian, gay, and bisexual and have a diagnosed substance use disorder are more likely to have co-occurring psychiatric disorders, and experience increased rates of depression than their heterosexual counterparts 3 Transgender children experience some of the highest rates of depression, suicidal ideation, self-harm, and eating disorders than their heterosexual peers. 6 Any addiction treatment plan, especially an LGBTQ-friendly treatment plan, should address the multiple needs of each person and address co-occurring conditions simultaneously to be most effective. 5 diagnosis and treatment
Types of LGBTQ-Friendly Alcohol Addiction Treatment Programs
Alcohol addiction treatment that is LGBTQ-friendly should be inclusive and affirming. LGBTQ-specific treatment programs foster positive treatment outcomes for cisgender LGB, and likely for transgender clients, as they are designed to mitigate stigma and discrimination.10 These programs don’t just slap a rainbow sticker in the waiting room, but rather integrate an understanding of the challenges LGBTQ+ individuals faces when struggling with mental health and substance use disorders can be critical. 7
Behavioral and pharmacological therapies are shown to be effective when treating co-occurring substance use and mental health disorders. 5 Behavioral therapies For example, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can help people address negative self-talk and subsequent patterns of behavior, like using alcohol to manage stress for example. 5 Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) can help people learn how to regulate their emotions, reduce self-destructive patterns, and improve relationships. 5
Depending on the severity of a person’s substance use or mental health disorder, treatment may include the following: 8
- Medical detox. During a medically supervised detox, a person goes through the detoxification process while under the care and supervision of trained medical staff. They monitor withdrawal symptoms and psychological complications of withdrawal and can administer medications if necessary to provide comfort and manage intense symptoms of withdrawal.
- Inpatient treatment. Inpatient treatment services provide 24-hour support and structure for people who have not been able to manage recovery in an outpatient setting. During inpatient treatment, a person stays in the facility overnight, typically for a period of 30, 60, or 90 days, although duration may vary. It is also referred to as residential treatment.
- Outpatient treatment. For this treatment method, a person visits a facility to receive treatment services but still lives at home. There are varying levels of outpatient treatment, such as intensive outpatient programs and partial hospitalization programs.
- Aftercare. Aftercare establishes additional support services so that people stay engaged in the recovery process. This can include relapse prevention programs, support groups, and individual and group therapy sessions.
What to Look for in LGBTQ-Friendly Alcohol Rehab Programs
LGBTQ-friendly treatment and rehab programs should include some of the following characteristics: 7, 10
- A safe and respectful environment that acknowledges gender identity and self-expression.
- An understanding of what it means to come out.
- A compassionate space where people of all sexual and gender minorities can be open and honest without the fear of discrimination.
- A trained staff, who has access to free training and continuing education and resources for various local and national advocacy organizations.
Avoid treatment facilities that use words such as “conversion” or “reorientation”. These therapies are not evidence-based and can be dangerous and traumatizing. 9
Finding an LGBTQ-Friendly Alcohol Rehab
Seeking treatment can feel overwhelming, especially finding LGBTQ-friendly treatment options. If you or your loved one has a primary care doctor you trust, asking them for any referrals can be a great place to start. SAMHSA has a treatment locator on their website to help you find options available in your area. American Addiction Centers (AAC) has a free, 24/7 helpline. You can call if you are feeling lost, experiencing the effects of addiction or withdrawal, or considering treatment. There are compassionate Admissions Navigators there to point you in the right direction with no obligation to enter treatment.
Call today if you or someone you love needs help.
American Addiction Centers maintains a strong partnership with a large group of insurance companies at our addiction treatment facilities. Start the journey to recovery and find out instantly using the form below if your health insurance provider may be able to cover all or part of the cost of rehab and associated therapies.
Additional LGBTQ Resources
Various groups offer support especially for the LGBTQ community. These include:
- APA Office on Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity. This is the American Psychological Association’s website on sexual and gender identity, and it offers resources, news, and advocacy efforts.
- Association of LGBTQ+ Psychiatrists. This website has resources about how healthcare providers can better support LGBTQ people, informational fact sheets, and a referral list of LGBTQ-informed psychiatrists.
- The National Center for Transgender Equality. This site offers information about various topics related to transgender people, transgender rights, and various supportive resources.
- SAGE National LGBT Elder Hotline. This is a hotline that offers crisis management and support for older LGBT people, as well as offering a range of educational resources online.
- Society for Sexual, Affectional, Intersex, and Gender Expansive Identities (SAIGE). This site is an offshoot of the American Counseling Association, offering education, resources, and a database of counselors who are understanding of LGBTQ+ issues.
- The Trevor Project. This website offers support and resources through access to trained counselors around the clock, as well as offering educational information and a safe place to socialize online.
Note: Variations of the LGBTQ+ acronym are used in this article to reflect that substance use studies have historically been limited to LGB populations and use binary identity classifications.