Dealing with drug abuse in the LGBT community

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Peter Minkoff

Peter is a gay lifestyle writer at Queer Voices and The Queerness magazine. Follow Peter on Twitter for more tips.
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Considering that we live in the 21st century and that more people openly share their sexual orientation, one would assume that the world is becoming a more welcoming place for people of all walks of life.

And yet, the trauma Will Mayrick recently experienced is merely one example of the mindset still prevalent even among the younger generations. The humiliation and hate this young man had faced from his own peers is a clear indicator that the world has failed the LGBT people, and the fact that the number of anti-LGBT hate crimes in Britain alone has increased by a staggering 78% is alarming, to say the least.

Is it all too strange then that so many LGBT individuals resort to alcohol and drug abuse in their attempt to cope with this vicious reality that they face every single day? For any meaningful, measurable change to occur, we will need a collective call for more responsible education, behaviour management, and more effective communication outlets for all those involved – and that means all of us.

Fostering understanding through education

In the words of Andrew Smith: “People fear what they don’t understand and hate what they can’t conquer.”

This may be an oversimplification of a deeply complex social issue, but it covers at least one crucial area that has to be addressed properly for us to grow as a civilisation. If we cannot teach our children to understand, care, and provide support for everyone in their community, we inadvertently breed hate and prejudice.

It is precisely this stress of facing stereotypical and negative connotations that drives LGBT individuals to drug use. However, if we begin to create a less hostile and more embracing environment, they might begin to feel like they belong.

We can all learn from Scotland, the first country in the world to include LGBT rights into their school curriculum. That’s just one in a myriad of necessary steps forward to help our LGBT youth feel like a part of a larger community, and an equally valued one at that, while it also teaches otherwise potential bullies to question their attitudes as well as their motives.

Support and rehabilitation to match the need

In addition to creating the right environment to prevent drug abuse or at least help reduce it significantly among the LGBT individuals, we need a battle plan to tackle the rise in said abuse with the right treatment options.

Full-scale addiction requires a complex support system of medical treatments, psychological and emotional support, and proper rehabilitation, all of which should be widely available to all LGBT individuals.

The greatest promise comes from genetics-informed rehab programs that will some day, hopefully in the near future, offer every individual a specific treatment method based on their genetic makeup. Until such a day comes, every addiction needs a personalised approach that includes proper withdrawal management, counselling, preventing possible relapses, and other ongoing medical and behavioural support.

A high level of support needs to come from families of the afflicted, schools, as well as medical institutions in charge of their recovery.

Legislature and public policies to follow suit

In order for the aforementioned prevention and treatment options to truly be implemented, it’s up to the legal bodies of each country to handle existing discrimination with greater care.

Simply for the lack of explicit laws that prohibit discrimination, many an LGBT patient has come to harm (due to lack of prescribed medical treatment, suicide, or otherwise). With no laws to ensure proper health care for LGBT members, it’s no wonder very few of them seek help to begin with, let alone receive it when they most need it.

Then again, existing and reported hate crimes need adequate reactions from officials as well as the public in the form of proper legal punishments as well as rehabilitation. This is where we circle back to proper education as the vital step in helping anyone understand LGBT lives and their rights.

While it may have taken 11 years for one such law (the Matthew Shepard Act) to pass, they are a necessity without which there can be no foundation for equality.

As the author of this article simply put it: “Hate crimes laws are an unequivocal statement that it is unacceptable for anyone to live in fear of being targeted for who they are.”

With legal, educational, and medical support, reducing drug abuse, mental health issues, and other consequences that stem from discrimination, we can begin to define the solution for this growing global issue.

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