Substance Use, Recovery, and the LGBTQ+ Community

Updated: 7 days ago

By Brandon Rafidi


en español

Millions of individuals in the United States are impacted by substance use disorder, which is a life-threatening disease that involves the uncontrolled use of drugs despite the harm it may cause to the body. In order for communities to ensure that all people have the ability to experience a positive recovery, which is the journey that one takes in an effort to achieve a healthier lifestyle, they need to be cognizant of specific groups that are more at risk for the issue itself.


In order for communities to ensure that all people have the ability to experience a positive recovery, which is the journey that one takes in an effort to achieve a healthier lifestyle, they need to be cognizant of specific groups that are more at risk for the issue itself.

Data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health revealed that adults who identify as being LGBTQ+ were more than twice as likely to have used illicit drugs than heterosexual adults. Moreover, it has been shown that people who identify as LGBTQ+ tend to enter treatment with more severe substance use disorders.


Although it is an important first step to identify groups that are more likely to be impacted by substance misuse, it is also necessary that communities understand the factors that may contribute to this reality. One of the most significant is the social stigma that individuals live with on a daily basis who identify as being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning. As a result of this stigma, many of these individuals also experience discrimination, harrassment, and violence in the community. Due to these additional challenges that people in this community are faced with, many people who identify as LGBTQ+ are also at an increased risk for behavioral health issues, including substance use disorder.


Consequently, it is crucial that communities offer access to recovery resources that are tailored to meet the unique social and health issues that individuals within the LGBTQ+ community experience. Since the recovery journey tends to be an extremely personal and individualized process, it makes sense that people of this community should be able to reach out to others who identify similarly as they navigate their substance use challenges. The more comfortable a person feels with any given resource, the more likely they will be to seek out and benefit from that resource. Ultimately, people within the LGBTQ+ community who are in recovery face additional challenges, but they can be overcome with the right support system.


Kenneth Young Center hosts LGBTQ+ SMART Recovery groups for adults 17+ in the community every Monday from 5:30pm-7pm. Meetings are currently being held via Zoom, click here for registration information.


Additional blog posts about recovery

Substance Use Recovery During COVID-19

Say This, Not That: The Language of Substance Use Recovery


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Schaumburg, IL 60173
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Funding provided in whole or in part to the Kenneth Young Center by the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS), Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and the Office of Adolescent Health (OAH).