Lately, a few of the people I work with have asked about the prevalence of addiction in the LGBT community versus the general population.  To be able to answer that question astutely, I did a little digging. Here’s what I found:  

1)      The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration published findings of a large sample study that revealed 36.3 percent of sexual minority males and 41.1 percent of sexual minority females used illicit drugs in the past year.  Corresponding percentages for sexual majority adults were 20.4 percent for males and 13.9 percent for females.

2)      The Center for American Progress echoes the same sentiment estimating that 20 to 30 percent of gay and transgender people abuse substances, compared to about 9 percent of the general population.  Again, roughly twice as likely.

3)      The Center for Substance Abuse Treatments reports twenty to twenty-five percent of gay men and lesbians are heavy alcohol users, compared to 3-10% of the sexual and gender majority. 

So, the published information I unearthed offered the same general conclusion: addiction and illicit drug use is approximately 2 times higher in the LGBT community than that of the general population.  A principal driver of this disproportionately high rate of substance abuse is likely the stress that comes from daily battles with discrimination and stigma as well as a lack of culturally competent health care services. Hopefully, whether you’re a practitioner, a client, a member of the LGBTQ community, or a member of the sexual majority (a person who does not identify as LGBT) you’ll bear these statistics and possible underlying causes in mind. 

Mary Delaney is a licensed psychotherapist.  Her areas of interest include Healing from Childhood Emotional Neglect, Reclaiming Lost Emotions, Finding True Purpose, Relational Living, Attachment, the Creative Personality, and Long-Term Recovery. For more information visit

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