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Gays Face Extra Addiction Threat

A respected research group claims that up to 30% of people in the LGBT community abused substances—and says rampant discrimination is to blame.

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The LGBT community is at increased
risk from addiction. Photo via

By Chrisanne Grise

03/12/12

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The Center for American Progress—a leading progressive public policy research organization—has just released a startling report asserting that gay, lesbian and transgender Americans are much more prone to substance abuse than their heterosexual counterparts. Pulling together data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and other scientific studies, the organization claims that an estimated 20-30% of gay and transgender Americans have abused substances, compared to 9% of the general public. Why? “The stress that comes from daily battles with discrimination and stigma is a principal 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 report states. "And a lack of culturally competent health care services also fuels substance-use rates among gay and transgender people.” The authors say that gay and lesbian adults are twice less likely than other Americans to have health insurance, since most workplaces still don't provide insurance benefits to same-sex couples. They also note that gay and transgender people are 200% more likely to smoke tobacco than heterosexuals, and that gay men are 3.5 times more likely to smoke pot than straight men. “In order to lower these rates," they conclude, "our health care system needs to better meet the needs of gay and transgender people, and our government needs to advance public policies that promote equality for this population.”

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