What is behind the risky behaviors of LGBTQ teens in America? Research has confirmed that the LGBTQ community may have high rates of mental health conditions. Mental health illnesses can be due to prejudice, stigma, rejection, fear, abuse, threats, assault, low self-esteem, harassment, or other circumstances. The National Alliance of Mental Illness notes that LGBTQ individuals are 3 times more likely to develop a mental health condition. Mental health conditions or illnesses can include depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, self-harm or thoughts of suicide.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report containing alarming information on LGBTQ teens across America. The Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System conducted by the CDC discovered that risky behaviors were the highest for lesbian, gay and bisexual teens. Some of these risky behaviors documented ranged from reckless driving to excessive drug or alcohol abuse. The prevalence of alcohol or drug related use was discovered to be greater for LGBTQ teens. One finding found that the use of alcohol before the age of 13 was 24% for LGBTQ teens compared to 16% for heterosexual teens. When we’re at the point where popular youth drugs like Adderall are easier accessed and stronger than cocaine, addiction help for LGBTQ teens should be a concerning topic.
It is common that those trying to cope with a mental illness self-medicate by abusing alcohol or drugs. NAMI has reported that a third of all people with a mental illness have a substance abuse problem or addiction. The combination of living with a mental illness and an addiction could be a huge reason that LGBTQ teens are led to engage in more risky behaviors.
In the CDC report, LGBTQ teens had the highest percentage of cocaine usage compared to heterosexuals teens in the study. Cocaine is a highly addictive substance. For any person that is coping with a mental illness and an addiction, help will be greatly needed. There are now inpatient rehabilitation centers, described as dual diagnosis centers, that are intended to treat both addiction and mental illness at the same time. Medical doctors have had success treating addiction and managing the mental health of their patients by treating both simultaneously.
Though the United States was credited with a huge LGBTQ step forward in the last year—the legalization of same-sex marriage—there’s a long way to go for LGBTQ equality. The inevitable discrimination, loneliness and confusion that stems from being a LGBTQ teen can lead to any degree of destructive behavior.
It is crucial that attention is highlighted on the growing health and risky behavior among lesbian, gay and bisexual teens. Risky behaviors among the LGBTQ teen community are life-threatening to them and those around them. Treatment and rehabilitation centers for people abusing hard substances, such as cocaine, addiction help and mental illness management is highly recommended. More information on how to receive help should be easily accessible to parents, schools, counselors and teens that may be struggling with a dual diagnosis, especially if we’re prepared to move forward with the LGBTQ .
Kann L, Olsen EO, McManus T, et al. Sexual Identity, Sex of Sexual Contacts, and Health-Related Behaviors Among Students in Grades 9–12 — United States and Selected Sites, 2015. MMWR Surveill Summ 2016;65(No. SS-9):1–202.
NAMI: LGBTQ. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.nami.org/Find-Support/LGBTQ
Updated: Read also related article explaining the link between addiction and anxiety here.
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