LGBTQ Addiction on Campus
LGBTQ+ students often face unique challenges on college campuses, including a lack of safety on campus, high stress levels, threats, discrimination and stigma. These daily battles may drive them toward alcohol and drug use. Twenty to 30 percent of LGBTQ+ people suffer from substance use disorders compared with 8.4 percent of the general population.
Stress plays an integral part in any college student’s academic career. LGBTQ+ students have to deal not only with academic stress but also stress from the lack of acceptance by their peers. An NBC News article reported that the LGBTQ+ students often resorted to marijuana to quell their struggles with anxiety, depression and stress.
LGBTQ+ students report greater incidences of drug and alcohol use on college campuses compared to their heterosexual counterparts, according to a 2010 study published in the Addictive Behaviors journal. The research revealed that the higher rate of substance use might be due to stress from an unwelcoming campus environment.
A 2014 Australian Study, published in the Drug and Alcohol review revealed that 58 percent of LGBTQ+ youth used drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism for homophobia. Hostile environments push LGBTQ+ people toward safe spaces where they can be themselves, such as gay bars.
“For most of your college peers, in order to socialize with other gay people, they must go to a gay bar,” said Ken Schneck, dean of students at Marlboro College. He added that gay students had no choice but to go to a place that served alcohol, hence the increase in exposure to substances of abuse.
Schneck also pointed out that some LGBTQ+ students used drugs and alcohol to justify their identity — they have a better way to explain their engagement in sexual activities by blaming it on the influence of substances of abuse.
The use of drugs and alcohol on college campuses bears many consequences, including:
Poor academic performance
Campus law enforcement involvement
Unprotected sexual intercourse
Assaults and injuries
According to multiple studies, LGBTQ+ students tend to experience substance use consequences more than heterosexual college students. However, members of the LGBTQ+ community also seek substance abuse treatment more than their heterosexual counterparts.
Several colleges have implemented LGBTQ+ resource centers where LGBTQ+ people will receive the care and support needed to maintain a substance-free life. These centers strive to create initiatives to make LGBTQ+ people feel accepted and safe, subsequently deterring them from using substances of abuse.
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McCabe, S.E. et al. (2012, March 22). Sexual Orientation and Substance Abuse Treatment Utilization in the United States: Results from a National Survey. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3388170/
Reed, E. et al. (2009, September 10). Alcohol and Drug Use and Related Consequences among Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual College Students: Role of Experiencing Violence, Feeling Safe on Campus, and Perceived Stress. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2783782/
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St Cloud State University. (2009, October 20). Schneck on LGBT drug use. Retrieved from
University of California Los Angeles. (n.d.). Welcome to the LGBT Campus Resource Center. Retrieved from http://www.lgbt.ucla.edu/
Sonia Tagliareni is a writer and researcher for DrugRehab.com. She is passionate about helping people. She started her professional writing career in 2012 and has since written for the finance, engineering, lifestyle and entertainment industry. Sonia holds a bachelor’s degree from the Florida Institute of Technology.