How to Help a LGBTQUIA Friend Experiencing Substance Abuse


By Ali Mariani 

The LGBTQIA population has a high rate of substance abuse and addiction. Substance use disorder rates among this population are 20-30%, a statistic that is significantly higher than the 9% of the general population (YFS, 2015).  Substance abuse is twice as prevalent in LGBTQIA youth compared with their peer counterparts. Individuals who are a part of this population face a specific set of challenges as a result of their sexual orientation and are classified as minorities due to their sexual orientation and/or sexual preference and identification. Among these challenges include stigma, bullying, minority stress, suicide, depression, and anxiety. It is important to note that many of the mental health challenges that this population experiences are a result of the stigma, discrimination, and social isolation that can occur.

Just as there are various challenges that the LGBTQUIA population face, there are also various barriers to substance abuse treatment. However, there are various things that you can do to be helpful if you have you have a LGBTQUIA friend who is struggling with substance abuse. Here are a few:

Helping an LGBTQUIA Friend Experiencing Substance Abuse:

  • Be aware of your language; strive to be inclusive rather than exclusive. If you have a friend transitioning, ensure that you call them the name and gender that they want to be called.
  • Understand and be aware of the specific challenges that LGBTQIA population face (lack of resources, lack of treatment options, lack of acceptance, etc.)
  • Be aware of minority stressors. There are a lot of stressors and they are different for each individual.  For example, stressors can come from family, from the workplace, from a religious institution, or from the general community. All of these stressors may contribute to substance abuse and/or may be obstacles to getting help.
  • Be aware of the importance of the “coming out” process in the trajectory of an individual’s life. When an individual who comes out has a supportive friend and network, the outcome is significantly better. You can be the supportive friend.
  • Be educated on current state of affairs  (i.e. the impact when a shooting against LGBTQIA population occurs)
  • Understand that trauma affects everyone differently and is unique to the individual. For example, the Orlando shootings have the potential to have a large impact on members of this population.
  • As with helping any friend struggling with substance abuse, let them know that you are here to help them find help when they are ready. Understand that they may not be ready yet.
  • Seek out local support groups and offer to attend an open meeting with your friend.
  • Refrain from judgmental statements about use (i.e. “Wow, you really drink a lot of alcohol”). These are not helpful.
  • Let them know that they are not alone.

CT Resources for LGBTQIA:

The Trevor Project- suicide prevention for LGBTQ youth


New Haven Pride Center84 Orange St, New Haven, CT


Triangle Community Center618 West Ave St 205, Norwalk, CT 06850


True Colors30 Arbor St, Suite 201A, Hartford, CT 06106


Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous


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