Walk down Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood on any given night and you will be instantly drawn to its energy. Clubs are packed beyond capacity and beautiful patrons wait in lines on the sidewalks. Perfectly proportioned young men dance in thongs on table tops or go go stations while spectators force dollar bills in their crotches. This is the nightlife baby…
This is daily life in the party communities across America. Regardless of whether gay, straight or mixed clubs are always energized by sex, drugs and music. Young and old, gay and straight some escape the allure of the night and don’t fall prey to the addictions found there… others are not so lucky.
There is no evidence that sexual orientation affects an individual’s mental health or physical chances of developing addiction. However, gay, lesbian and transgenders are more likely to experience certain risk factors worth noting…
Family history – If addiction runs in your family, you are more likely to develop a substance abuse problem. This is a risk factor that impacts both gay and straight individuals.
Environment – A person’s home environment plays a large factor in motivating or not motivating a person to try drugs or alcohol. Job stress, money struggles or an unstable family life can all contribute to substance abuse. A homophobic community or a family that doesn’t accept an alternative sexual identity can cause low self-image and long-lasting guilt. Many adult LGBT individuals outwardly reject the “values” of these conservative communities, embracing an alternative lifestyle that may include heavy drinking and drug use.
Mental health- Co-occurring mental health issues can contribute to a person’s chances of developing addiction. While anti-gay propaganda portrays homosexuality as a curable mental illness, there is no evidence to back this up. Attempts at conversion therapy or the suppression of homosexuality do not increase in heterosexual feelings but rather increase feelings of shame and anxiety about an individual’s natural sexual identity. These feelings can cause depression and other psychological issues that can cause a person to turn to drugs to cope.
Social life- How a person interacts with their peers can influence his or her susceptibility to addiction. Being harassed at a young age can lead to isolation, depression and low self-esteem. When politicians, religious leaders and popular media portray LGBT individuals as less than worthy of basic human rights, it affects how they see themselves. This added stress influences the likelihood of turning to drugs as a method of coping.
The reality is this … the gay community centers around bars or clubs. Older LGBT individuals and couples often drink more and use more drugs than their straight counterparts to fit in with the community. Statistics show that crystal meth is used by 40% of club goers across the country. That percentage is higher in gay men.
Know what you need when you need it ……
LGBT individuals often face judgment at hospitals and doctor’s offices making them less likely to seek treatment for drug addiction.
Because of their unique place in American society, gay men always benefit from drug addiction treatment programs that are geared specifically for them. Unfortunately, with exception of facilities located in large cities with considerable GLBT communities, few such treatment facilities currently exist. Instead, gay men seeking drug rehab are best served by addiction treatment facilities that understand their special needs and often “programs within the program” that are designed to address gay-specific issues.
Think of it this way … If I am going to move across country, a truck will be my best option for a successful move. A Buick is an option and it may get me there… but the probability of success is certainly less. Why take the chance on failure?
It is important to ask the admission personnel at any drug rehab facility a few simple questions:
Are there any members of the treatment staff who are gay, or have experience treating homosexuals in recovery?
Does the facility see a considerable number of gay men and women come through the program?
Are there counseling sessions designed to meet the needs of the gay addicts?
If the answer to any of these questions is “yes” then this facility is likely to be an appropriate choice for treatment. It is important to find a facility that is accepting of everyone’s sexuality – and more importantly will be able to knowledgeably address the root causes of addiction in gay men during counseling.
If you or someone you love is suffering with addiction… there is hope.
This is my journey… this is my life.