No Straight Answers: substance abuse and our queer community
Author: The Queer Therapist
No Straight Answers: A fiercely queer guide to love, life and mental health.
Chris Grant, The Queer Therapist, is a trans non binary psychotherapist, sex and relationship therapist, Diversity, Inclusion and Equality Consultant and health content writer who specialises in trans and queer mental health, sex and relationships.
You can follow The Queer Therapist on their social channels @theqtherapist
Addiction, substance abuse and recovery.
It’s always a difficult subject to talk about and perhaps the silence around this topic is exactly why we need to tackle it.
Let me be clear when I say being queer in no way automatically means you have substance misuse issues or mental health issues, but we are more likely to develop these problems when our identity is stigmatised.
Substance misuse in our community is a silent but very real issue and many of us don’t want to talk about it because admitting we have a problem would “let down” the people around us or the queer community.
We hold ourselves to such high standards and the emotional toll of that can be utterly exhausting.
Healing comes from sharing and being able to open and honest about the struggles we are facing
Healing also comes from societal change.
Only when our identities are de-stigmatised can we move from surviving to thriving.
The queer community is twice as likely to suffer from substance misuse compared to the rest of the population. From alcohol abuse and binge drinking, to the use of harder drugs like methamphetamines, heroin, and opioids.
This is due in part to a number of societally imposed obstacles. What we’re talking about here is the systemic oppression of the queer community from heteronormativity, cisnormativity and mononormativity (assuming that monogamy is the ‘norm’).
In real life terms this translates into:
Discrimination or stigmatisation based on LGBTQIA identity
Rejection or shame from family or friends
Internalised transphobia/ homophobia
Workplace harassment/ bullying/ hate crimes.
Queer individuals may turn to drugs or alcohol as a way temporarily enjoy living as their true selves or as a way to self-medicate to cope with difficult feelings such as, depression, shame, anxiety, anger, rejection or fear, in response to these daily challenges.
Chem sex (taking drugs when having sex) may be used to enhance arousal, desire and lower inhibitions. For some the risks are small but for others chem sex can lead to risky sexual behaviours like unsafe sex, exposure to HIV and STIs and issues around consent.
When we have other underlying mental health issues like depression or a mood disorder for instance, it can make managing a substance misuse issue very challenging or interfere with the ability and desire to seek substance abuse treatment. Throw neurodivergence into the mix and the picture gets even more complicated!
Affirming and non-normative substance misuse treatment which addresses the specific needs of queer individuals.
Learning successful coping methods for dealing with queer-specific issues.
Screening for neurodivergence.
For more, follow The Queer Therapist on their social channels @theqtherapist.
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In the UK, LGBT Foundation offers offers or can signpost support to LGBT individuals affected by drugs, alcohol and chemsex. To find out more, you can call on 0345 3 30 30 30 or email Recovery@lgbt.foundation