In 2020, significant numbers of LGBTQ youth didn’t receive mental health care due to concerns related to the LGBTQ competence of providers, including the inability to afford care, fears of being outed, and previous negative experiences. LGBTQ adolescents and adults alike choose to self-medicate with substances at higher rates than their heteronormative counterparts.9
“Self-medicating” describes the action of choosing and taking drugs or alcohol without the guidance and expertise of a physician, typically to deal with the symptoms of a mental health disorder or other health condition. It may offer relief in the short term, but self-medication can lead to addiction if used carelessly. Depending on the substance being consumed, addiction may be developed quickly.
Alcoholism has been ingrained in LGBTQ society because, for decades, the only places that LGBTQ individuals could be open about their sexuality with other LGBTQ individuals and feel safe were gay bars.10
Stimulants are a class of drugs that include prescription drugs like amphetamines (e.g. Adderall), methylphenidate (e.g. Ritalin), diet aids, and illicitly used drugs like methamphetamine and cocaine. When abused, stimulants may be taken to produce a sense of exhilaration, enhance self-esteem, improve mental and physical performance, increase activity, reduce appetite, extend wakefulness for prolonged periods, and “get high.”11
Opioids are a class of drugs that include the illegal drug heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl and methadone, and pain relievers available legally by prescription, such as oxycodone (OxyContin), hydrocodone (Vicodin), codeine, and morphine.12 Opioids, notably oxycodone and hydrocodone, are abused for the euphoric effects, feelings of relaxation, and sedation they produce.13
Benzodiazepines are a class of drugs that produce central nervous system depression and are most commonly used to treat insomnia and anxiety. Alprazolam (Xanax), lorazepam (Ativan), clonazepam (Klonopin), diazepam (Valium), and temazepam (Restoril) are the five most prescribed benzodiazepines, as well as the most frequently found on the illicit market. When abused, benzodiazepines can produce a calming, euphoric effect.14