With this being Pride Month, its important to acknowledge how substance use disorder effects afflicts the Queer community.

Many federally funded surveys have only recently started to ask about sexual orientation and gender identification in their data collections.

According to data from a 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), suggest that substance use patterns reported by Queer adults is greater than the overall population. Studies show that this disparity is caused by demographic, gender-related, mental health, and socio-economic risk factors. In 2020, approximately 41.3% of Queer adults 18 and older reported past-year marijuana use, compared to 18.7% of the overall adult population. Approximately 6.7% of Queer adults in 2020 misused opioids (prescription opioids or heroin use) in the past year, compared to 3.6% of the overall adult population. The NSDUH survey also found that, in 2020, approximately 21.8% of Queer adults had an alcohol use disorder in the past year, compared to 11.0% in the overall population. (View the 2020 NSDUH Lesbian, Gay, & Bisexual Adults slide deck.)

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) plans on tackling this issue through a number of initiatives:

  • Encouraging states to consider LGBTQI+ needs in administering their  SAMHSA Block Grants resources
  • A sexual and gender focus in funding announcements when appropriate

This week federal legislation, The Equality Act, was introduced in both chambers of congress to extend federal nondiscrimination protections to Queer Americans.

The Equality Act would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlaw’s discrimination based on race color, religion, economic status, sex and national origin, to further prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation.

Full text of the Equality Act is available here. Background information can be found here. The Senate companion bill has been reintroduced by Senator Jeff Merkley.

The New York State legislature recently passed legislation A4900/S993 regarding accessing substance use disorder services based on the individual’s gender identity, gender expression and/or sexual orientation. Treatment is difficult enough as is, ensuring New Yorker’s will be able to access treatment that aligns and affirms their gender identity was a positive step forward in which will be a long journey ahead.

If you know anyone who needs help: