Drug and alcohol-related health inequalities

Even though the majority of LGBTQ+ people do not use alcohol and drugs in a harmful way, there is evidence across the UK, Scotland and abroad that LGBTQ+ people are impacted disproportionately by drug and alcohol-related harms and health inequalities.

There are understandable reasons why people may develop a harmful relationship with alcohol and drugs. For some people, it’s drinking or using too much too often on nights out or in social situations. For others, it’s a way to cope with challenging life circumstances, inequality, isolation, trauma, or mental ill-health.

Whatever the reason, no one should be judged or stigmatised for using alcohol or drugs. Similarly, you should not be judged or stigmatised if someone you love uses alcohol and drugs.

LGBTQ+ people face challenges and circumstances that cisgender and straight people don’t necessarily have to contend with. This can impact on the way some LGBTQ+ people use alcohol and drugs. It can also impact LGBTQ+ family members, partners, and friends who impacted by their loved ones’ substance use.

For example, LGBTQ+ people might face issues such as:

  • Historic and ongoing inequality and discrimination (homophobia, biphobia or transphobia)
  • Harassment, bullying or violence on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation
  • Rejection by family and friends
  • Having to hide one’s sexual orientation or gender identity from others (including from family)
  • Misplaced shame about ones gender identity or sexual orientation brought on by homophobia/biphobia/transphobia
  • Limited visibility of alcohol and drug-free LGBTQ+ spaces or events
  • Barriers to accessing equitable healthcare and services
  • Experiencing multiple intersecting forms of inequality or oppression (ie: experiencing homophobia/biphobia/transphobia and also experiencing racism, ableism, classism, sexism, etc).

Experiencing any of the above is tough and it’s important to have support.

The #KinderStrongerBetter Campaign

people holding handsScottish Families is proud to have co-lead with Glasgow Council on Alcohol on the development of an LGBTQ+ community co-produced campaign, #KinderStrongerBetter. The campaign aims to address drug and alcohol-related health inequalities and presents a series of videos and harm reduction messages designed by and for LGBTQ+ individuals, families, and communities impacted by substance use.

You can view the videos and check out the website here.

The campaign and website were developed in partnership with the Glasgow Council on Alcohol and Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol and Drugs, funded by the Glasgow Alcohol and Drug Partnership Ripple Community Activity Fund.

This project is part of wider work being undertaken by the Glasgow LGBTQI+ Substance Use Partnership, comprising alcohol, drug, LGBTQ+, and family support services, as well as the NHS and academic researchers.

Where to find support

Whether you are worried about your own drug and alcohol use or someone else’s, know that you are not alone.

There are services, supports, and community groups that can be here for you if you need it. Many of whom are passionate about working alongside LGBTQ+ people!

You can find information about supports at the KinderStrongerBetter website here.

You can also check out our service directory here.

Scottish Families support anyone in Scotland who is affected by someone else’s drug or alcohol use. Whether you are a partner, friend, neighbour, parent or colleague feel free to get in touch.

The Glasgow LGBTQI+ Substance Use Partnership

images holding hands

The Glasgow LGBTQI+ Substance Use Partnership was founded by Scottish Families and Glasgow Council on Alcohol in 2019 and is comprised of alcohol, drug, LGBTQ+, and family support services, as well as the NHS and academic researchers.

The partnership was set up in recognition of the health inequalities experienced by LGBTQ+ people around substance use (alcohol & drugs) and following on from research showing that LGBTQ+ people can face additional barriers to accessing drug and alcohol support.

If you are interested in being involved or hearing more about the partnership group, please contact ashleigh@sfad.org.uk

You can follow us on social media here:

Twitter: @LGBTQISubUse

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LGBTSubstanceUse/

What the research says about LGBTQ+ people and Substance Use

Research in both Scotland and across the United Kingdom (UK) suggests that Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ+) people are more likely to use alcohol and other drugs and develop problematic or dependant use than the general population (Emslie, Lennox & Ireland, 2015; Valentine & Maund, 2016; Bachmann & Gooch, 2018). Similar to disproportionate rates of mental ill-health experienced by LGBTQ+ people, disproportionate use of alcohol and other drugs and associated harms represent one of many health inequalities facing LGBTQ+ people (Bachmann & Gooch, 2018).

The impact of minority stress is understood as a correlate for increased substance use experienced by sexual minority populations (Boyle, Labrie, Costine & Witkovic, 2016). Similarly, Valentine and Maund (2016) note that half of the transgender respondents to their Scotland based research identified that their substance use had been affected by stressors related to being transgender. Additionally, there is evidence that LGBTQ+ people fear and face unequal treatment, discrimination and stigma when accessing alcohol and other drug and healthcare services (Emslie et al 2015; Valentine & Maund, 2016; Bachmann & Gooch, 2018). In spite of such evidence, there is no explicit mention of LGBTQ+ people in the Rights, Respect, and Recovery: Alcohol and Drug Treatment Strategy (Scottish Government, 2018).

Alongside the impact of minority stress and structural factors like discrimination and stigma, Emslie et al. (2015) report that increased alcohol use amongst LGBTQ+ populations may be influenced by the social context of LGBTQ+ people’s lives, including through the normalisation and availability of alcohol, particularly on the commercial gay scene, and in the role of alcohol in identity construction for LGBTQ+ people. Yet despite identifying specific risk factors within the social context of LGBTQ+ people lives, barriers exist that make it more difficult for LGBTQ+ people to access timely, responsive and sensitive healthcare and support, or access LGBTQ+ spaces that are not alcohol and drug-centric.

To continue reading the research visit our blog post.

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