Alcoholism & the LGBTQ+ community

The term LGBTQ+ encompasses individuals from a range of different sexual orientations and preferences, including those identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and other queer individuals.

It is also referred to as the gay community or queer community.

In the modern world, these individuals still face immense discrimination and bigotry, often leading to mental health issues and factors affecting the individual’s well-being daily.

This can include factors such as discrimination in the workplace, as well as relationship difficulties and struggling at school due to bullying. (1)

Because of this, more and more establishments are creating programmes and workshops for individuals in the LGBTQ+ community to help them specifically, including rehabilitation services.

At Rehab 4 Alcoholism, we understand that addiction can affect all individuals, no matter their social background, their financial class, or their sexual orientation.

This is why we provide support to all who reach out for it, no matter who the individual is or how they identify.

Alcoholism in the LGBTQ+ community


Within the LGBTQ+ community, there is a strong presence of alcoholism – the addiction to alcohol.

Research has shown that alcoholism is especially prevalent within the lesbian community, with individuals who identify as lesbians having a far higher rate of alcoholism when compared to heterosexual women.

However, individuals in the gay community in general report higher rates of alcohol and drug use in general, as well as a high prevalence in access to mental health services and struggles with mental health issues such as panic attacks and depression. (2)

In most cases, individuals turn to alcohol as a coping mechanism, helping them to deal with the everyday pressures and discrimination that they may experience as part of their daily lives.

Although the world is constantly changing and society is becoming more understanding of the communities around them, alcoholism within the LGBTQ+ community is still a major issue, not just in the US, but in the UK as well.

Why is the LGBTQ+ Community More Likely to Struggle with Alcoholism?

As previously mentioned, the LGBTQ+ community still faces daily abuse, discrimination, and lack of access to specific services.

This can have significant impacts on individuals, especially younger people, and they may turn to alcohol as a way to deal with this.

There are many reasons why an individual in the LGBTQ+ community may develop an addiction to alcohol, but the main reasons are outlined in the following paragraphs.

1. Discrimination and abuse

Especially for individuals in areas of the world where the LGBTQ+ community is less accepted, individuals in these areas will face significant struggles within their country.

This may take the form of verbal or physical abuse, being shunned from social activities, or losing support from individuals who have previously helped them.

Because of this, LGBTQ+ individuals may begin to struggle with significant mental health issues.

If an individual in the LGBTQ+ community has a mental health issue such as depression, paranoia, or anxiety, they are far more likely to develop an addiction as well as this. (2)

This is known as a dual diagnosis.

If the individual does not receive support for their mental health, then this can quickly lead to an addiction, with the individual increasing their consumption of alcohol as an escape from their everyday issues.

2. Safe places

Historically, individuals in the LGBTQ+ community were not allowed to express themselves publicly e.g., dressing the way they want, displaying affection with their partner, or protesting their rights.

This led to an increase in the number of individuals from this community meeting in social gatherings such as nightclubs and bars.

In most cities, there would be specific bars for individuals in the LGBTQ+ community, advocating being who they are, being proud of their sexuality, and the party culture.

These events are often hugely celebratory, leading to excessive consumption of alcohol and other drugs.

If this was the only place where an individual could feel safe, then it would have been easy to develop an addiction to alcohol or the other drugs available.

This was also supported by the normalisation of this; most individuals would be drinking heavily and/or regularly, meaning that it was hard to break the cycle.

3. Lack of support

In some cases, because an individual is part of the LGBTQ+ community, they may be denied access to specific systems or activities.

For example, many religious support groups and systems do not support individuals in the LGBTQ+ community or force them to suppress their true identity in order to receive support.

In addition, some families are rejective of their children if they come out to them, leading to a further lack of support from family and friends.

In some cases, this can turn a whole family against an individual, creating further stress and pressure on the individual to provide their own support.

For this reason, homelessness is also extremely common among individuals in the LGBTQ+ community (3). This, in turn, can also be a contributing factor to the increased risk of developing alcoholism. (4)

Alcohol is a Dangerous Drug

Although it is one of the most widespread and available drugs in the world, alcohol is still one of the most dangerous substances that can be accessed legally.

Because of the strong drinking culture in many countries, especially the UK, not many individuals consider alcohol to be a drug – something which can cause issues when considering the amount of alcohol that some individuals consume daily.

The number of deaths from alcohol-related causes is also increasing.

Alcohol is addictive due to the way that it changes the brain’s structure, altering the neural pathways that are associated with addictive behaviours: pleasurable reward and motivation.

For this reason, alcohol is known as a physically addictive substance. This makes it especially difficult to withdraw safely, especially in the cases of a longer-term addiction or individuals who experience more severe withdrawal symptoms.

In some cases, medical professionals may administer a drug called Librium. This is a drug designed to combat negative withdrawal symptoms such as sweating, tremors, alcoholic seizures, and heart complications.

It is always recommended to undergo a medically supported detoxification session, even if this is just for the support of other individuals.

It is never recommended to undergo alcohol withdrawal alone, as the consequences can be life-threatening if not properly supervised and monitored.

Common Therapies & Treatments for Alcoholism


After an individual has undergone alcohol withdrawal, it is vital that this is followed by further addiction treatment programmes.

The detoxification process is intended to remove the harmful chemicals and toxins that have built up in the body as a result of long-term alcohol addiction, but it is important that the individual also focuses on the harmful mental health effects that this type of addiction can also have.

In most cases, addiction support providers will recommend some form of therapy. Therapy is the most effective way to treat the mental health effects of alcohol addiction, as it allows individuals to share their thoughts and feelings surrounding addiction.

Through methods such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), individuals will learn to ‘reconfigure’ their thought patterns, changing the negative thoughts into more positive ones, having more patience with themselves and their situation, and creating coping mechanisms of their own to continue into their long-term recovery.

Similar therapies such as dialectical behavioural therapy (DBT) can also be used, especially for individuals who may have a stronger emotional reaction to addiction.

In addition, individuals will also often find it helpful to join an addiction support network. This is a form of talking therapy and includes individuals sharing their experiences of addiction, including coping mechanisms and relapse prevention techniques.

Individuals are able to learn from others as well as form an essential network of support that they can continue in the long term.

Common addiction support networks include Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA).

How to Support Someone with Alcoholism

If you suspect that someone you know may have an addiction, then there are several steps that you can take in order to talk to them about the issue, but in a supportive and non-confrontational manner.

First, it is important to remember to be patient and not immediately accuse individuals of struggling with alcohol addiction.

This can often create more problems and the individual may become less socially receptive to any further attempts to help them.

Listening to the individual is the key feature. Practising active listening and being empathetic toward the individual is a great way to show support and that you want to help – not to scold them.

In some cases, it may be suitable to conduct some research beforehand, coming up with suggestions for potential rehab options, without pushing them on the individual without their consent or desire.

It may be useful to take advantage of the support offered by counsellors or interventionists in order to help individuals who may be more in denial of their issues. This is a great way to mediate the situation and give suitable and appropriate suggestions for the individual’s next steps.

How Rehab 4 Alcoholism can Help

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Rehab 4 Alcoholism is an addiction support referral service, meaning that members of our team are ready and waiting to give free and confidential advice to anyone who calls our addiction support line on 0800 111 4108.

If the individual requires it, we are also able to begin the process of rehabilitation centre admission where necessary.

No matter if the individual is at the beginning of their rehabilitation journey or needs additional support along the way or after leaving an addiction treatment programme, Rehab 4 Alcoholism is ready and waiting to help.


[1] Sears, B. and Mallory, C., 2014. Employment discrimination against LGBT people: Existence and impact.

[2] Cochran, S.D. and Mays, V.M., 2000. Relation between psychiatric syndromes and behaviorally defined sexual orientation in a sample of the US population. American journal of epidemiology151(5), pp.516-523.

[3] Rhoades, H., Rusow, J.A., Bond, D., Lanteigne, A., Fulginiti, A. and Goldbach, J.T., 2018. Homelessness, mental health and suicidality among LGBTQ youth accessing crisis services. Child Psychiatry & Human Development49(4), pp.643-651.

[4] McCarty, D., Argeriou, M., Huebner, R.B. and Lubran, B., 1991. Alcoholism, drug abuse, and the homeless. American Psychologist46(11), p.1139.