Pride Month, LGBTQ Youth, and Addiction Treatment & Prevention

Pride Month, also called LGBT Pride Month, celebrates members of the LGBTQ community. It also works to raise awareness of the many issues and barriers still faced by people who are lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgender, or queer.

For many LGBTQ people, they begin facing these issues in adolescence. Bullying, prejudice, pay gaps, discrimination, violence, and hate crimes are just a few.

These issues in turn can cause LGBTQ people to turn to substance abuse (drugs and alcohol) as a way to cope with stressors.

And one of the goals of Pride Month is to show that with inclusive, affirming treatment, LGTBQ teens can best their alcohol or drug abuse issues long-term.

How Does Pride Month Highlight Addiction Issues in LGBTQ Youth?

Pride Month is celebrated throughout the U.S., with various awareness events, parades, and other gatherings held throughout the month of June each year.

With awareness comes sharing of information, including information related to the many struggles people in a sexual minority face daily.

For example, Pride Month can help illuminate the high rates of alcohol and drug use among LGBT teens. This issue is troubling, since substance use during teen years is a known risk factor for long-term addiction (substance use disorder or SUD).

Alcohol and Drug Use Rates in LGBTQ Teens

In 2021, The Trevor Project, a LGBTQ-forward organization, completed a survey on LGBTQ youth mental health. 

The survey found that:

  • More than half of LGBTQ youth had used alcohol in the past year
  • Prescription drug misuse (i.e. opioids) was infrequent among LGBTQ youth at 2%
  • Multiracial LGBTQ youth had misused prescription drugs at higher rates than white LGBTQ youth
  • 11% of LGBTQ youth reported illicit drug use of marijuana and alcohol use

Overall, LGBTQ youth are at increased risk of experiencing drug or alcohol abuse in nearly all demographic groups.

That is, LGBTQ youth have:

  • 1.3 times the odds of heavy alcohol use
  • 1.6 times the odds of marijuana use
  • 2.9 times the odds of injection drug use (such as heroin)
  • 3.3 times the odds of cocaine use

Top Reasons LGBT Teens Turn to Alcohol and Drug Use

LGBTQ people who abuse drugs or alcohol may do so for a number of reasons.

Fear of Rejection and Social Stigma

First, fear of rejection among peers, family, and in society due to expressing gender identity remains a struggle in the LGBTQ community. This is especially true in teens. 

Social stigma can lead to prejudice, acts of violence, bullying, and abuse. In order to self-medicate the effects of these injustices, LGBT teens may seek drugs or alcohol.

Physical Harm Due to Sexual Identity

Teens who face physical harm (violence) due to their sexual orientation or gender identity may want a way to escape from it. 

In fact, research shows that LGBTQ youth often use substances to deal with stressors associated with being in a sexual minority and other experiences. 

Experiencing Conversion Therapy

In the national survey, regular substance abuse of both alcohol and illicit drugs was reported at higher rates for teens who had experienced conversion therapy.

This form of therapy attempts to change a person’s sexual identity or gender identity through behavior modification, counseling, spiritual counseling, and other methods. Research has shown that these methods have long-lasting, harmful effects.

Risk Factors for LGBTQ Teen Addiction

There are some factors which may place LGTBQ adolescents at a greater risk of falling into an addiction following alcohol or drug use.

These risk factors include:

  • Having family members with alcohol or drug abuse issues
  • Having mental health issues
  • Experiencing trauma
  • Facing impulse control issues

LGBT youth who have experienced these struggles may be at a higher risk of developing an addiction, and the negative health outcomes which come with it.

Fortunately, swift health care with LGBTQ-friendly providers can address alcohol and drug use and help teens learn to cope with them for lasting recovery.

Many organizations that celebrate Pride Month can put teens and their parents in touch with resources to help them start the road to recovery.

Effects of Untreated Addiction in LGBTQ Youth

Left untreated, substance use disorder can lead to negative health effects for teens. For example, continued drug use and alcohol use. 

In addition, LGBTQ teen substance use is linked to higher suicide attempts.

Finally, drug and alcohol use can greatly affect both your physical and mental well-being, including:

  • Effects on mental health disorders
  • Heart and lung issues
  • Increased risk of stroke
  • Increased risk of Hepatitis B and C
  • Cancer risk

What Does Effective LGBTQ Addiction Treatment Look Like?

To help lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth recover from drug and alcohol abuse, more treatment centers must offer inclusive, affirming care.

This means providing addiction treatment for young people that not only addresses substance abuse and mental health issues, but that provides a safe environment. 

At Hope’s Destiny in Pennsylvania, we do just that. 

Our outpatient LGBTQ-friendly rehab program offers treatment programs that are welcoming and affirming to lesbian, gay, bi, and transgender people.

Evidence-based treatments in our teen rehab programs include:

  • Psychiatry
  • Counseling
  • Behavioral therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Mental health treatment 
  • Medication management

We also provide ongoing psychiatric evaluations before the start of a program and throughout treatment to identify at-risk behavior and adjust care as needed.

Addressing Drug and Alcohol Abuse in LGBTQ Youth

Pride Month can help raise awareness of the substance abuse issues in teens and high school students who are LGBTQ, as well as the related issues such as suicide risk.

But to address these issues, there are a few ways to take action, including:

  1. Advocacy. You can speak out against anti-LGBTQ organizations, support LGBTQ organizations, and be an ally to your LGBT loved ones.
  2. Working toward suicide prevention. LGBT youth experience higher rates of suicide risk than the general population, often linked to alcohol and drug use. To reverse this trend, suicide prevention, addiction recovery programs, and adequate mental health care is needed.
  3. Expanding mental health care for LGBTQ youth. Access to mental health care is a barrier across the U.S. due to lack of providers. More treatment centers could offer non-discriminatory, affirming care.

Find LGBTQ Affirming Care at Hope’s Destiny in Pennsylvania

If your LGBTQ teen needs compassionate, affirming addiction rehab care in Pennsylvania, Hope’s Destiny can help.

There’s no better time than Pride Month to help more lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals conquer the substance use issues they shouldn’t have to face.

For intensive, outpatient programs offering evidence-based treatment methods, reach out to us today.


An LGBTQ+ Pride flag with a blue sky to celebrate Pride Month 2024.
A poster for Mental Health Awareness Month featuring a green ribbon symbol
a sign showing outpatient at a facility