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Drug misuse has been a national health issue that has been prevalent for years (Adams, Ferguson , & Kopstein, 1990). Approximately 1.9 million people suffer from both drug and alcohol dependence (Epstein, 2000). With a problem this huge, its expected that some communities are affected more than others. LGBT youth are four times as likely as their heteronormative counter parts to misuse alcohol or drugs (Kelly, Davis, & Schlesinger, 2015). There is evidence of higher risk of misuse in the LGBT community with drugs such as cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and prescription drugs (Corliss, et al., 2010). It is important to view how a community that is marginalized is affected by AOD since it can cause issues in many aspects of a person’s life, including mental health. It was found that out of the youth that struggled with AOD around 50 to 71 percent have mental health issues (Winstanley, Steinwachs, Stitzer, & Fisherman, 2012). However, certain stresses experienced specifically by LGBT members are related to a higher risk of suicidality (Mereish, O’Cleirigh, & Bradford, 2014).
A study by Kelly, Davis, and Schlesinger was conducted to find the frequency of alcohol or drug use within youth. The same study also explored young people’s views of alcohol or drug use (AOD) within the LGBT community and the impact of homophobia on AOD. (Kelly, Davis, & Schlesinger, 2015). The study was conducted using a cross-sectional sample of LGBT youth who were attendees of an LGBT festival. The study used the criteria and questions from three different self-report assessment tools. The tools used were the Fagerstrom Test for Nicotine Dependence, Alcohol Use Disorders Identiﬁcation Test Consumption questions, and an adapted version of the Drug Check Assessment Tool (Kelly, Davis, & Schlesinger, 2015).
The study used self-report questions to gage use of drugs and alcohol use in youth. The findings show that alcohol or drug use was higher in frequency rate for LGBT youth compared to the general youth, as well as in teens under 18 that identified as a diverse gender (Kelly, Davis, & Schlesinger, 2015). The study also found that participants believed that alcohol or drug were used at an equivalent rate in both the heterosexual and in the LGBT community, and if there was a prior belief that AOD was impacted by homophobia then the risk of misusing alcohol or drugs increased (Kelly, Davis, & Schlesinger, 2015).
The study did have some limitations with generalizability. The sample size for this study was self-reported, as in participants self-identified, so data could show skewed results. Since people were asked to self-identify in a public space, some people could have felt shy or uncomfortable to disclose certain participation in the use of some substances. This in turn could have the data not showing an accurate representation. Another limitation to the study is that it was limited to youth between the ages of thirteen to twenty-four and attendees of an Australia music festival. The data collected is specific to the youth of Australia and cannot be generalized to youths nationally. However, the data collected could be used in comparative data if future research was conducted in the same way but in different areas. Future research can even go as far as to collect data from a bigger sample so that it can be applicable to greater masses.
Although a huge issue with the limitations is that it is not generalizable to every community, I chose this specific study because it personally reflects a demographic that I hope to work with in the future. The LGBT community is of high interest to me because I personally identify as a member. I consider myself bisexual, and I noticed that a lot of my friends that are also a part of the community have issues with drug or alcohol use. Not only is it a prevalent issue in that community but it is also an overlying issue in my own life. I’ve struggled in the past with drug misuse but more specifically with alcohol abuse. I chose this topic to further explore why I felt it so natural to turn to substances for comfort in trying times.
Knowing the prevalence rate within my community is a good starting place to decreasing my own consumption. Although there are not specific solid steps presented in the study, the information presented can be useful in my health journey by putting into perspective the dangers of high drinking rates and what can be done to lower the impact of such a harmful activity.
Since children under the age of 18 that were a part of the LGBT community had higher drinking rate than their counter parts (Kelly, Davis, & Schlesinger, 2015), we know there is a need for prevention programs. Since we now have this piece of information, programs geared towards drug and alcohol misuse prevention and education can be created and implemented. These programs can be aimed at LGBT youth who self-report issues with AOD. Not only will this help with the health epidemic, but this can create an opportunity for community connectedness which can help with AOD rates. Youths attending a school with a GSA (gay-straight alliance) had less alcohol and drug issues as compared to youths that attended a school without a GSA (Heck, et al., 2014). Bringing awareness to these issues can help marginalized communities that are affected harder than other communities.
Although the study did relate greatly to my own personal health goals, I found it interesting that there was not a more concrete connection between homophobia and alcohol or drug. I was shocked that AOD misuse was only impacted if there was a belief already present in the participant (Kelly, Davis, & Schlesinger, 2015). I believed there would be a link regardless of belief because of the negative affect homophobia has on youth self-concept. In my personal experience, some of the nights that were of heavier drinking were related to a homophobic comment I had received and even my own internalized guilt I felt for being a part of the community. As can be seen, AOD has many different affects and outcomes for different groups and communities, however, AOD is a national epidemic that does not discriminate.
- Adams, E. H., Ferguson , L. D., & Kopstein, A. (1990). Overview of selected drug trends. MD: National Institute on Drug Abuse., Rockville. Retrieved from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED332099.pdf
- Corliss, H. L., Rosario, M., Wypij, D., Wylie, S. A., Frazier, A. L., & Austin, S. B. (2010). Sexual orientation and drug use in a longitudinal cohort study of U.S. adolescents. Addictive Behaviors, 35, 517-521. doi:10.1016/j.addbeh.2009.12.019
- Epstein, J. F. (2000). Substance Dependence, Abuse and Treatment: Findings from the 2000 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse. Office of Applied Studies, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Rockville. Retrieved from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED467829.pdf
- Heck, N. C., Livingston, N. A., Flentje, A., Oost, K., Stewart, B. T., & Cochran, B. N. (2014). Reducing risk for illicit drug use and prescription drug misuse: High school gay-straight alliances and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth. Addictive Behaviors, 39(4), 824-828. doi:10.1016/j.addbeh.2014.01.007
- Kelly, J., Davis, C., & Schlesinger, C. (2015, July). Substance use by same sex attracted young people: Prevalence, perceptions and homophobia. Drug and Alcohol Review, 34, 358-365. doi:10.1111/dar.12158
- Mereish, E. H., O’Cleirigh, C., & Bradford, J. B. (2014). Interrelationships between LGBT-based victimization, suicide, and substance use problems in a diverse sample of sexual and gender minorities. Psychology, Health & Medicine, 19, 1-13. doi:10.1080/13548506.2013.780129
- Winstanley, E. L., Steinwachs, D. M., Stitzer, M. L., & Fisherman, M. J. (2012). Adolescent Substance Abuse and Mental Health: Problem CoOccurrence and Access to Service. J Child Adolesc Subst Abus, 21(4), 310-322. doi:10.1080/1067828X.2012.709453
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