New LGBTQ-Specific Treatment Options Meet Critical Needs

By Paul Fuhr 10/06/17

“Queer people need safe spaces, knowledgeable people, and members of their own communities. Access to care is a big problem in queer communities." 

 LGBTQ flag being waved in crowd of people

Research studies have long shown that the LGBTQ community suffers from substance abuse problems at an incredibly high rate. In fact, queer people are twice as likely to use illicit drugs than anyone else.

As such, new clinics and resources are emerging across the country to meet the unique needs of the LGBTQ community, according to VICE. “[Substance use disorder] is a queer and trans issue because the stigma, discrimination, and violence we face makes us more vulnerable to things like substances and substance use,” said Antonio Ruberto Jr, Director of Behavioral Health at an LGBTQ community center in NYC. “Some people use substances as a way of coping with things like stigma and oppression.”

That’s why it’s vitally important that queer-specific options for addiction recovery are available everywhere, the story said. 

For decades, LGBTQs faced challenges in finding healthcare solutions that fit their needs without fear of judgment. However, in recent years, people with addiction who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning have experienced a seismic shift in attitudes toward them. This has made it easier to get tailored treatment, though many reports indicate that transgender individuals still face a rough road to recovery.

Even with 25 million transgender people worldwide, they are “routinely denied in areas of marriage, employment, housing and healthcare” which, in turn, makes them more susceptible to anxiety, depression and drug abuse. Still, the tide continues to turn as more queer-friendly substance use disorder treatment options become available. 

“Queer people need safe spaces, knowledgeable people, and members of their own communities. Access to care is a big problem in queer communities," Eric Yarbrough, an NYC psychiatry director, told VICE. “People won't seek care from professionals who are not competent in LGBTQ issues. It’s a community that continues to suffer from discrimination and marginalization, and substance abuse is a result of that.”

And yet, recovery options designed for queer communities continue to evolve, becoming far more comprehensive and effective in what they offer. Stigma and discrimination are “factors a growing number of health professionals are taking into account when designing spaces and services for queer people in recovery,” the VICE piece observed. One queer-friendly recovery center in NYC, for example, provides treatment options for 400 teens and adults, including “one-on-one counseling and group support, along with about 80 different kinds of recovery meetings.” 

More resources seem to be popping up all the time, too. The world’s leading provider of HIV/AIDS prevention, Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC), recently opened a brand-new clinic specifically for addiction recovery.

“Access to affordable, quality substance use services is a crucial component of health care, especially in comprehensive HIV care,” said GMHC CEO Kelsey Louie in a press release. “What’s even more exceptional and significant about this clinic is the ability to directly work with those who have a dual diagnosis of substance use and mental health issues.”

What’s more is that the new GMHC center is open to anyone and everyone, regardless of sexuality or HIV status. “The harmful stigma surrounding substance misuse, mental health, and HIV/AIDS continues to keep people from seeking the help they need," New York’s First Lady Chirlane McCray commented. “It is one thing to have services, but if they are not accessed and people don't feel comfortable going and receiving treatment they're not going to continue [getting treatment].”

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix

Paul Fuhr lives in Columbus, Ohio with his family and two cats, Vesper and Dr. No. He's written for AfterParty MagazineThe Literary Review and The Live Oak Review, among others. He's also the host of "Drop the Needle," a podcast about music and addiction recovery. More at You can also find Paul on Linkedin and Twitter.