Sexual discrimination and substance abuse

Sexual discrimination and substance abuse

It seems that those who are part of a so-called “sexual minority” have a significantly higher risk of using or abusing alcohol and drugs than heterosexuals. What is it due to? The minority stress theory.


Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2018, include Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2018, and include alcohol use (AUD), substance use (DUD), and use disorders of tobacco (TUD; APA, 2013). These kinds of ailments have a significant impact on mortality in the United States, as well as the high costs for family members, who are most often forced to pay for expensive care, recovery centers and be subject to theft by the relative with an addiction (Whiteford et al., 2015).

Those who have a sexual orientation or a non-majority gender identity, that is LGBTQIA people (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender – or transgender -, queer, intersex and asexual) have a significantly greater risk of using or abusing alcohol and narcotic substances compared to heterosexuals, even if the socio-cultural and demographic characteristics are the same (Kerridge et al., 2017). In particular, those who are part of a so-called “sexual minority” are more likely to have a diagnosis of AUD (Allen & Mowbray, 2016), one of TUD (McCabe et al., 2018) and one of marijuana use disorder ( McCabe et al., 2009).

Minority stress is the most scientifically based motivation to support this difference in substance abuse among sexual minorities; this is mainly due to the fact that sexual minorities are subjected to a significantly greater number of chronic stressors throughout their lives. Chronic stressors include prejudice, discrimination, stigma related to orientation and / or gender identity or fear of being discriminated against by society (Meyer, 2003).

Some recent research has shown that substance abuse, related to sexual orientation and / or non-majority sexual identity, also varies according to age: the experiences of discrimination of individuals belonging to young sexual minorities they may in fact be different from those of older subjects (Hammack et al., 2018).

Advertising message In this regard, the present study (Evan-Polce et al., 2020), has set itself the objective of investigating the correlation between age, orientation and / or sexual identity and AUD, TUD and DUD. The sample, consisting of 2375 subjects, included heterosexual, homosexual and bisexual individuals.

The results showed that sexual discrimination was more evident during early childhood, but reported an association statistically significantly with AUD, TUD and DUD only in older age. The most significant correlations between substance abuse and sexual orientation were found between 24 and 40 years for the AUD, between 32.5 and 42.9 years for the DUD and between 39.3 and 43.2 years for the TUD. Those who were discriminated against for their sexual orientation around 30 years of age had a 2.1 times higher chance of abusing alcohol than those who were not discriminated against and heterosexuals (Evan-Polce et al., 2020).

In conclusion, the study conducted shows that there is still a strong correlation between sexual discrimination and substance and alcohol abuse, in particular for young adults, underlining the psychological risk of the social stigma, unfortunately still hard to die.