The LGBTQ+ Community and Substance Use
Pre-teens, teens, and young adults that identify as LGBTQ+ have an increased risk for alcohol, tobacco, or other drug use. Recent research has identified a number of key life experiences specific to the LGBTQ+ community that increase the risk for substance use. Below are the results of the Youth Risk Behavior Survey taken by La Crosse County High School Students in 2021. The results indicate that this research holds true for La Crosse County.
Being a part of the LGBTQ+ community does not cause substance use. Rather, some differences between LBGTQ+ youth and straight, cisgender youth - mostly consequences of prejudice - weaken their support systems and increase the pressure for them to use substances. Understanding these risk factors and differences is crucial for helping LGBTQ grow up substance-free. Some of these differences include bullying and harassment, family rejection and conflict, gender stereotypes and dysphoria, and peer influence.
There are strategies that adults can do to help all teens remain substance-free including discussing expectations of substance use and positive reinforcement. Strategies that are specific to LGBTQ+ youth include providing family support, providing a safe school environment, creating a LGBTQ-affirming environment, and preventing and addressing bias and bullying.
Linked here is a guide on how to start the conversation with LGBTQ+ youth to provide a safe, affirming environment.