A recent report from the Lesbian and Gay Foundation and the University of Central Lancashire found that drugs use is significantly higher in the LGBT community (33%) than the average population (5%).
The statistics are showing:
- More than a third of LGBT people took at least one illegal drug in the last month
- 10 times more likely to have used cocaine in the last month than the wider population
- 13 times more likely to have used ketamine
- Heroin use was comparable among both populations
The report sampled more than 4,000 people over two years, warns that there is “significant problematic substance use among lesbian, gay and bisexual people” and a risk of “substantial hidden harm”.
These findings are not new, in 2008 Stonewall carried out one of the largest surveys of its kind among 6,000 lesbian and bisexual women. This earlier survey found that one in 10 lesbian and bisexual women had taken cocaine, compared with 3% of heterosexual women. Overall, lesbian and bisexual women were five times more likely to have taken drugs than heterosexual women.
David Stuart, education, training and outreach manager at London Friend, the UK’s only targeted LGBT drug and alcohol service, said feelings of “rejection” and “fear” as well as “shame around sex” could be factors leading to substance abuse.
But Kitty Richardson, 25, who runs the Most Cake, a blog for lesbians in London, said: “the scene has a lot to answer for”. She added: “People are very quick to label gay people as troubled, or inherently needing those crutches, but all our methods of socialising revolve around drink or drugs. A by-product of that is people can become dependent.”
LGBT men and women make up a small percentage of the population, but they are often under fire from government and religious groups. These offensives leave an indelible mark on the individual – scars that often lead many to drug addiction. Even more potentially damaging is a lack of understanding from one’s own family.
Tris Reid-Smith, editor-in-chief of the Pink Paper said about the cause of increased drug users: “Nobody can know and we’re just guessing. Relatively little research has been done on this subject.” An alternative explanation could be down to lifestyles, Reid-Smith suggested. “Gay people in their day-to-day lives, working in regular offices, have very little access to gay lifestyle other than in evenings, which are focused around bars and clubs – and clubbers are more likely to take drugs.”
The statistics around higher drug use in the LGBT community needs to be looked at more and there should be a better support system created to help the LGBT community. The problem with statistics across a community is that the reporting tends to be generalised, as of course, it should and would be. But we are not dealing with communities when people choose recovery. We are working with individuals who have their own unique history that needs to be addressed.
The triggers of higher drug use in the LGBT community is an issue that is best debated and solved within the LGBT community. Taking support and advice from outside is good but to truly understand the drug problem, the best scenario is a LGBT leadership in providing solutions. It will be very hard work to figure out how to tackle this issue but as this community has and continues to face adversity worldwide I am confident the drugs problem will be met with the same strength and commitment seen in so many LGBT causes.
However, treatment for the individual addict looking for recovery, whether LGBT or otherwise, will always cross all labels. An addict will have much in common with another addict, no matter the background of why they started, the disease is the same. The proof is in the 12 steps and how it has helped so many recover and yet the steps do not change for sexual orientation, skin colour, geography… the power of the program, rehab centres, and therapists is the ability to tackle the addiction and treat the individual.
What are your thoughts on the increased drug use and where the LGBT community should go from here? Or is this report overblowing the situation and no change is necessary?