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Addiction and LGBTQ+


Life is hard. Even for the most successful amongst us, those with the biggest smiles and best careers, life can be tumultuous. Addicts know this all too well.

It is one of our most often repeated mantras here at Compass – anyone can become addicted to drugs or alcohol. That means the officer who patrols your streets, the doctor who cares for your family, the pastor of your church, your therapist; anyone.

For people like that, untreated addiction can be a never ending torment. Not only is their body and mind under the control of a substance that is tearing them apart, but if that fact is ever found out, their professional, and in many cases personal, lives could come crashing down around them. 

One segment of the addict population that knows the horrid shock of that situation all too well is the LGBTQ+ community. For this community, simply being “outed” before they are ready can result in life altering repercussions.

An estimated 20%-30% of the LGBTQ+ community abuses substances, as compared to around 9% of the our population on a whole. This is a dramatic, jarring difference is usage habits. And the reasons for this can be vast.

The LGBTQ+ community faces many of the same challenges that straight addicts do, and then some. These added challenges in their everyday lives most certainly contribute to the greater numbers of the LGBTQ+ population turning to substance abuse.

On a daily basis, members of this community face threats of, or acts of, violence, abuse (both emotional and physical), discrimination, shame and rejection from family/friends/society, “internalized homophobia” – AKA self-hatred, extreme stress and fear at being outted or “found out” if they are not out, and much more. The mere act of love, so natural and pure, can be a life sentence for some to these discriminations and stigmas that permeate the community at large.

Thankfully, acceptance, love, and freedom are growing across our country for those within the LGBTQ+ community, but loud, hateful voices, and large pockets of small-mindedness still exist. It is these sorts of stressors that cause so many within that community to turn to substance abuse as a form of coping mechanism. Everyday society forces them to self-medicate in order to simply exist within that society.

Along with increased substance abuse come the co-occurring disorders. Things like depression, anxiety disorders, suicide, self harm, stress disorders, and more are often large parts of the lives of the LGBTQ+ community as well.

When someone reaches a point that they decide that it is time to take on this beast called addiction and they reach out for help, the last thing that they need is stigma or prejudice rearing its ugly head within the very space that should be a refuge for them while they recover.

All of this, on top of basic human decency, make it incredibly important that every person who seeks help for treatment is able to receive that help without fear of being persecuted for other portions of their life.

At Compass Detox, we go to great lengths to ensure that the LGBTQ+ community will feel just as welcome as the straight community. Who you love does not matter within our doors. The only thing that matters is giving you the strength and courage necessary to face your addiction, break your addiction, and continue on living a life of purpose and sobriety.

We seek to renew you. You are not sober when you come to us. You are sober when you leave. And you have the tools and connections to maintain that sobriety and, perhaps, even help those around you begin their own sober journey. Gay, straight, bi; it doesn’t matter. Sober does. And we will help you achieve that today!

Brooks V.
Brooks V.
Brooks has been a freelance journalist for the better part of two decades, as well as spending a decade as a crisis intervention counselor. Through his own work and researching the work of others throughout the many facets of the detox, crisis intervention, and mental health worlds he has been able to tell the stories of those worlds in an effort to help addicts and those with mental illnesses understand and navigate them.