LGBT & Gay-Friendly Addiction Treatment Program

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Last Edited: November 16, 2020

Author
Patricia Howard, LMFT, CADC

Clinically Reviewed
Andrew Lancaster, LPC, MAC

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and certified by an addiction professional.

Do gay adults and teens really need specialized drug rehab centers?

If you’ve ever faced discrimination or hostility because of your sexuality, you know that the answer to this question is “yes.” Gay-friendly drug rehab programs respect the needs of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBTQ+) communities. Instead of treating their LGBTQ+ clients like outsiders, these facilities offer a safe space of recovery.

Research suggests that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals are at greater risk for substance use and mental health issues compared with the sexual majority population that identifies as being heterosexual,

“It is okay to be vulnerable and ask for help. I had to learn this through my journey. It was difficult to ask my parents for help, but it was the right thing to do. We have a close relationship again. I feel blessed to be part of their lives. This is a true gift of recovery.”
– CHANDLER K., OF HEROES IN RECOVERY

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Research has shown that people who are part of the LGBTQ community are also more likely to deal with substance abuse or addiction problems. Luckily, because this is recognized a number of rehab facilities have now started to offer services tailored specifically to the needs of those who fall into this demographic. While there are now quite a few centers that do this, the best programs deal with the various issues that the LGBTQ community faces, which include trauma, abuse, violence, stigmatization and harassment. Additionally, they help to create a network of peers, so that they are among those who understand their particular challenges.

Increased Risk of Addiction in LGBTQ Community

Various research reviews, including one published in the Psychology of Addictive Behaviors journal, have confirmed that LGBTQ people have an increased risk of abusing substances than other demographics. One of the reasons for this is believed to be that this community has significant challenges when it comes to getting health care, as they often have to face bias and judgment. This is also true within the world of addiction treatment. Over the past few decades, however, the attitudes and perceptions of people have started to shift, and this means people within the LGBTQ community are now better able to get the help they need and are entitled to.

Availability of Programs Tailored Towards the LGBTQ Community

This has changed the way rehab facilities operate. Some programs are now tailored specifically towards those who are lesbian, gay or transgendered. Others have certain counseling sessions specific for those in this community. All recognize the specific problems that these demographics face and that cause them to be more likely to have a substance abuse disorder. Unfortunately, and this is certainly true for people who are identified as transgender, some bias and prejudice continue to exist. As such, while great progress has been made, a lot more still needs to be done.

It is important that those who are part of the LGBTQ community learn how they can find a treatment plan that fits all of their personal needs. There are, for instance, lesbian rehab centers and gay rehab centers. People in these programs share an understanding, and often this includes the staff too. This means there is a true and deep understanding of the stresses that the LGBTQ community has to face, which heterosexual individuals simply cannot be aware of. The most important thing is that when people attend this type of program, they will be accepted regardless of their sexual orientation.

At LGBTQ rehab centers, people can receive the treatment, counseling and therapy they need in order to recover from their substance abuse problem. This means that there is a focus on dealing with the addiction, and also on dealing with the other issues that LGBTQ people might face. For instance, they can be equipped with the skills to manage discrimination in the workplace, or to overcome rejection by the family, without having to use harmful substances to do this. Similarly, for transgender people, education is put in place so that they no longer have to experience the pain of being misunderstood. It is also very common for people in the LGBTQ community to not accept their own gender identity or sexual orientation, wishing that they were “normal”. This is also something that rehab centers deal with, teaching people to love themselves for who they are. There is nothing abnormal about being gay or lesbian.

LGBTQ Addiction Rehab Programs

It is very important that the specific issues relating to the LGBTQ community are recognized, particularly if they were to enroll in inpatient facilities. Transgender individuals, for example, need to be housed with those who identify with the same gender. These are simple solutions that can make a tremendous difference. Similarly, centers must recognize that the needs of a gay man might be different to those of a lesbian woman, and different again or those who identify as bisexual because everyone has different needs in rehab to cope with their addiction. Meanwhile, there is also a tremendous difference depending on the age of the individual. It is only by recognizing these differences that treatment can have a long term successful outcome.

The SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) has recognized that treatment providers must now be able to deliver services to various demographics. In the SAMHSA’s “A Provider’s Introduction to Substance Abuse Treatment for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Individuals” report, they have laid out several strategies that treatment facilities can implement in order to deliver better services. The Association of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Addiction Professionals and Their Allies has further improved the SAMHSA publication.

Discrimination and Addiction in the LGBTQ Community

People who are part of the LGBTQ community have long experienced discrimination, both in private and in public. The American Journal of Public Health has completed research to demonstrate how this constant bias affects people, finding that members of this community are four times more likely to be affected by a substance abuse disorder. There are a number of contributing factors that can make this even more likely, including:

  • Being physically abused by partners or family members
  • Being excluded from social activities and groups
  • Being publicly discriminated against, losing child custody, or losing a job
  • Being rejected by the spiritual community and/or the family of origin
  • Experiencing violence due to their gender identification or sexual orientation
  • Being ridiculed by their peers, which is particularly common among LGBTQ youth
  • Experiencing sexuality discrimination as well as discrimination based on religion, race, or gender.

For people who are part of the LGBTQ community and struggle with addiction, it is possible that they have experienced the above factors multiple times in their lives. Others, however, have never experienced them, but worry that they might. Both can lead to substance abuse and addiction. It is vital that treatment is offered without stigma or discrimination.

Meeting the Particular Needs of LGBT Populations

If a rehab facility is accepting of the LGBTQ community, they will be more likely to understand the discrimination that these people face, and they will recognize this in how they offer treatment as well. In doing so, they can offer real help with the specific issues that the LGBTQ community faces. The Butler Center for Research has reported on some of the particular issues that people in this demographic face, which can help shape appropriate treatment. These issues include the fact that:

  • There are more occurrences of illicit drug use and marijuana among gay men
  • There are higher levels of binge drinking and alcohol addiction in lesbian women
  • There is social isolation experienced by bisexual individuals, who do not feel part of the gay men, lesbian female, or heterosexual community
  • The transgendered community is particularly mistrustful of the health care provision community
  • There is a need to properly manage the usage of hormone therapy during rehab
  • There are specific issues faced both physically and emotionally by younger people within the LGBTQ community

These are just six of the important points for treatment centers to implement if they are to meet the needs of the LGBTQ community.

Finding an Inpatient Drug Rehab Near Me

The understanding and acceptance of LGBTQ issues is increasing tremendously, and particularly when it comes to drug addiction and alcoholism. Because of this, many rehab facilities now state that they can cater appropriately to the specific needs of this demographic. Unfortunately, some will have a bias, unintentionally so, that can make it very difficult for the individual to actually seek help. It’s why it can be challenging to find a center that meets all the individual’s specific needs.

It is now recognized that those suffering from an addiction are most likely to achieve lasting sobriety if they are supported through medically supervised detox and rehab. Secondly, facilities must offer mechanisms and methods that help people learn to manage their own recovery as well. More specific to people in the LGBTQ community, and their family, managing recovery has to include the psychological, personal, and social perspectives that they face. Additionally, they must learn how to manage other very specific and unique issues that they are likely to face, which include:

  • How to deal with discrimination against them
  • How to deal with anxiety, depression, and guilt that they feel as a result of their gender identity and sexual orientation
  • How to manage peer pressure when they are in the club scene
  • How to be able to accept their identity, and come out to others

Inpatient rehab facilities in particular have to think about how to manage transgender individuals. They can be placed with their self-identified gender, or with their biological gender. The latter can only make the stigma they already face much worse, meaning that they immediately have added emotional and mental struggles. These may be the very struggles that led to them abusing substances in the first place. It is important that transgender people are respected for who they are, as this is vital if they are to fully recover.

Dual Diagnosis in LGBTQ People

LGBTQ people might also be more likely to have a dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorder. Because of this, they must not only manage their substance abuse disorder, but also their anxiety, depression or any other mental health problem. It is very important that a rehab facility is equipped with the skills and knowledge to manage a dual diagnosis. These issues must be treated at the same time, rather than as two individual issues, so that people can return to the “real world” with all the skills they need to lead meaningful, happy, and healthy lives.

Learn more about Co-Occurring / Dual Diagnosis Treatment Programs, click here.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse has emphasized that if patients are to achieve long term recovery from their addiction, they must receive help that is customized and tailored to their individual needs. This is true regardless of whether someone is part of the LGBTQ community or not. Which is why if people identify as LGBTQ and want to enter rehab, they must find a program that is able to manage those needs.

Rehab facilities that focus specifically on the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community members have to meet a number of different criteria depending on the needs of the individual. Because there are many such facilities out there now, it is no longer necessary to simply enroll in the first one that shows up on Google. Some of the the specific things you may want to look into if you are looking, be that for yourself or for a loved one, include:

  • Which people within the LGBTQ community are represented? Some, for instance, will focus solely on lesbian women, or on transgender individuals. You may want to find a program that caters to the whole of the LGBTQ community.
  • What type of training has the staff at the center received in regards to LGBTQ issues? The centers should be fully accepting of LGBTQ, but that does not necessarily mean that their staff are trained on these. While being accepted is incredibly important, you need to know that the people delivering the treatment actually understand the issues faced by this community as well. Some of the facilities only hire staff members of the LGBTQ community as well. This may be of importance to you.
  • What type of programs are offered by the facility? It isn’t just about being LGBTQ friendly, after all. You need to make sure that the actual therapy and counseling that are offered, including the holistic treatments, are suitable for your particular needs.
  • What sort of aftercare systems are put into place? Once you leave rehab, your journey isn’t over yet. You need to make sure that further support continues to exist for you, so that you can avoid a relapse.
  • What success rate does the program report, and how do they define it? Some, for instance, class “success” as someone who completes a 28 day residential program. Others class “success” as someone who is still sober one year after completing the program.
  • What is the cost of the program? It is likely that your insurance company will cover at least some of the cost of the facility, but not all of it. Make sure you understand what costs are involved, and look into the possible payment arrangements for any costs that are not covered by your insurance, or whether you have other financial means yourself.

The disease of addiction affects people of all demographics. The LGBT community is one of the hardest hit groups by this vicious and life-threatening mental illness.

There is no single reason for this increase in susceptibility. Explanations range from stigma, trauma, mental illnesses such as depression and PTSD, and problems finding help within the medical community.

Some studies suggest that the statistically higher rates of discrimination are to blame for the LGBTQ community’s increased propensity toward substance abuse.

In recent years there has been increasingly positive change toward recognition and support for those who suffer from substance abuse and addiction within the LGBTQ community. Treatment centers have developed to accommodate such individuals and provide support and care that target their specific needs.

Whatever the reason for substance abuse and addiction, if there is one, no one deserves the trauma this disease causes. Substance abuse disorders are classified as a mental illness and require professional treatment to overcome its deadly symptoms.

No one should continue to suffer from the vicious and devastating illness of addiction. If you or someone you love has problems with mood and mind-altering substances, get help today.