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Drug Treatment for Gays and Lesbians

Addiction issues for those in the gay or lesbian community are complex, and can include issues with sexuality, identity, social standing, homophobia, prejudice and discrimination, along with the drug dependence itself. The impact of these stresses is reflected in higher than average rates of drug addiction for LGBT individuals. Gay-and-lesbian-friendly drug treatment options that specifically address these topics, alongside standard addiction therapies, provide a higher rate of success for those in the LGBT community.

The Treatment Process

Intervention and treatment of drug and alcohol abuse requires several different steps. These include:

  • Withdrawal assistance. For some addictions, you must completely withdraw from drugs in order to effectively work on your long-term sobriety. For some addictions, such as those to opiates, a tapering-down process may take place, or you make take prescription medications to aid the detox process. Symptoms during this detox session are physical and emotional, and often require drug and counseling therapies to manage effectively.
  • Addiction counseling. During these therapy sessions, you will learn what events or behaviors led to your addiction. With a counselor, you will discuss triggers for addiction, management of social networks that encourage drug use, and how to move forward into a life of sobriety.
  • 12-step programs. While not all treatment facilities require the structure of a 12-step process, many follow the general outline. The arrangement of steps has proven successful for many addicts in the past.
  • Ongoing counseling. This provides a check-in support system to help you stay on track when you resume your life outside of treatment.

While all addiction treatment programs follow these fundamental therapies, gay-and-lesbian-friendly facilities go beyond the basics, addressing additional mental health and emotional counseling needs and common stresses of the community. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAHMSA), members of the GLBT community often feel targeted and isolated which can lead to such mental health issues as depression and anxiety – true medical needs that are often overlooked during addiction treatment. Treating these conditions along with the addiction is crucial to the success of the program.

In a drug treatment program with experience treating gay and lesbian patients, specific issues that are dealt with include:

  • The difficulty of coming out to family and friends; your counselor can help you address this emotional boundary if needed
  • Acceptance that the reaction of family and friends may be less than what you hoped for
  • Integration of a new social network that does not involve drinking or drugs
  • Addressing the reasons behind your risk-taking behaviors
  • Understanding depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions if these are diagnosed during treatment
  • Understanding and putting to rest deep levels of shame at not living up to perceived expectations of family and community
  • Helping you to become the person you want to be, beyond your addiction and other emotional concerns

*Where Can I Find Gay and Lesbian Drug Treatment Programs?

Unfortunately, according to the California’s LGBT Constituency Committee and the LGBT Tristar report in 2010, less than 7 percent of addiction therapists are trained specifically in gay and lesbian issues. Thus, finding a therapist experienced in areas of need for gay and lesbian patients may be difficult, but the following are some resources for drug treatment centers that specialize in working with members of the gay and lesbian community:

  • Primary care providers have resources for local treatment centers. They can help you research the best facility for your needs. If you do not have a primary care provider, local clinics may have free or reduced-cost appointments available.
  • The Department of Health and Human Services offers information on drug addiction and rehabilitation services.
  • Our hotline can provide you with information on gay-friendly addiction treatment programs that fit your insurance needs and lifestyle.

Your drug treatment should be positive and should address your individual struggles with drugs, alcohol, identity, physical and mental health needs, along with the addiction treatment itself. Long-term sobriety is only achieved with a deep understanding of the unique issues you are facing.