Depressing New Study on Gays & Addiction Proves What We Already Know

“Your people  sure do love margaritas!’ said the Argentinian lady I used to work for back in the mid-1990s. And she was right. The restaurant she owned was packed on the weekend with gays and lesbians just getting their drink on. Now, a new study from The Center for American Progress says that not only do “my people” love their cocktails but they are more prone to drug and alcohol abuse then our straight counterparts.

I talked about this months ago on these pages and have often wondered what, if any, is the correlation between LGBTs and addiction/alcoholism. Based on my own non-scientific yet vast field experience, I would ascertain that we queers are one cracked out, jacked up drunken mess of a group of people. But clearly I’m no researcher. I like to think of myself as more of a lab rat. Thankfully, this study which pulled data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and other studies,  did the real work. The organization claims “that an estimated 20-30% of gay and transgender Americans have abused substances, compared to 9% of the general public” according to That staggering number confirms what the LGBT community has known for decades but refuses to talk about; addiction and alcoholism are killing thousands of gays and lesbians. So why, after all the knowledge we have about addiction does it continue to ravage the gay community? “The stress that comes from daily battles with discrimination and stigma is a principal driver of these higher rates of substance use, as gay and transgender people turn to tobacco, alcohol, and other substances as a way to cope with these challenges,” the report states. “And a lack of culturally competent health care services also fuels high substance-use rates among gay and transgender people.”  Gay and transgender folks, the study says, are also 200% more likely to smoke tobacco than hetrosexuals while gay men are 3.5 times more likely to smoke pot than straight guys.

I can’t begin to speak on the drinking and drug habits of all gay people. (Contrary to popular belief we don’t all know each other.) But for me personally, I read a survey like that and find those numbers to be right on in my own life. Drug abuse? Check. Alcoholism? Check. Smoking? Check. I’m not sure about the hypothesis of why gays and lesbians drink and drug more though. For me it was a combo of things. Being gay was one part but mainly I drank and used to escape, to get away from a person I hated–myself. I had a lot of shame and not all of it was centered on being gay. Ironically, my “battles with discrimination and stigma”,as the study calls them, were more inflamed while I was using. I don’t encounter that kind of resistance in my sober life but that’s a different study altogether. Personally, I don’t believe being gay or being the child of  an alcoholic or being bullied or having a high voice alone made me an alcoholic. It was all kind of written in the stars before I got here and it was up to me to either meet the challenges or not. But that’s my crazy ass beliefs. My hope is that gay leaders can look at this study and say “Our community has a problem. What do we do about it?” Ignoring it and having Absoult sponsor our gay Pride floats isn’t helping matters, in my opinion.

But what do you guys think? Does this study hold any water? Will it bring out much-needed honest conversation? Or are LGBTs doomed to a life of addiction? Tell me your thoughts in the comments section!

15 thoughts on “Depressing New Study on Gays & Addiction Proves What We Already Know

    • Hi D.- yeah we sure do. I wish we could pool some of our enthusiasm for getting loaded into helping one another recovery. But I guess it all begins with us as individuals. Here’s to being sober homos!
      xoxo- S.

  1. I have noticed that of the more culturally “mainstream” products that are “proud” (for want of a better word) to advertise to the gay community, with the exception of Ikea, they do seem to all be vodka-related…

  2. Great post! 🙂

    When I finally sobered up (8 months and counting), some of the anger that surfaced seemed related to how I’ve been treated because I’m gay, and also stemmed from the ways I chose to “cope” with homophobia right back when I first began coming out (which was, rather synchronistically, when I also started drinking). I spent 20 years drowning my reaction to that homophobia with vodka-based activities.

    So this comes as no surprise to me, that our community often medicates itself, to deal with the homophobia and the hate. We need to help each other to realise what we’re doing, and to educate others about what homophobia does to people.

    • Hey! Congrats on the 8+ months– that is MAJOR!! Very cool. I agree our inner homophobia matched with society’s can be a lethal combo for those of us who like to escape in “vodka-based activities.” Or tequila based activities. Or powdery white activities. And yet I do not know what the answer is. As you and I know, it takes a lot of pain to finally change and maybe the gay community at large just isn’t there yet. Sigh.

  3. Before you even mentioned the pressures and stigma of being different and being a target, I guessed that these would be a major factor. I’m straight, but still drank to deal with the self-loathing I had because of being an unpopular, socially awkward person. I imagine if I was gay that that my lack of feeling like I could “fit in” may have been even stronger. Sheer speculation, but you asked for opinions.

    But until society as a whole grows more tolerant, I suspect that the internal psychological pressures to which the LGBT community is subjected will continue to be a trigger for substance abuse. I agree that leaders promoting education and therapeutic services from within the community can only help.

    • And you know I love hearing your opinions, Fox. For a straight guy your pretty darn insightful! Yeah the overwhelming urge to fit in and not feel like our awkward fucked up selves can drive peopel to all kinds of messed up stuff. I know it did for me.

  4. Today Shawna, who used to be Shawn (they need to perfect this. There is nothing “a” about her/him) was getting her hair done and she said that she doesn’t drink at all. Blows that theory, don’t you think??? And then there’s Alan, who was doing Shawn(a)’s hair, who is def gay, but doesn’t drink. Bam! Steve is a fitness buff….oh yes, and he’s gay (a hairdresser) and he only drinks at weddings. Maybe it’s the geography. Or the organic saltines. #saynotocrackers

    • Or perhaps you stumbled on the rare 3 that don’t drink.Sober LGBT are so rare they’re like leprechauns or unicorns. I tease. You know I adore some Jennifer Tresh. Yeah I don’t think being gay or bi or transgendered alone can make you an alcoholic or a drug addict. And just because you’re one doesn’t mean you’ll be the other. But all those factors play a part in it I think. I, unfortunately, am the walking stereotype of an addict/alcoholic- Irish! Writer! Gay! Product of an alcoholic family! Jeeze all that’s missing is Hemingway or Barrymore as my last name.

      • So, if you are an alcoholic or addict, can that make you gay??? I’m just sayin….(I hate that phrase…and for all of you who may think I am asking a serious question, I beg for your answers 🙂 ) I like Seanpaulhemingway….

      • Ha ha! Not sure about that but I have had friends who drank themselves gay. You know seemingly straight folks who after one too many become queer. I used to a have circle of friends in LA who by day were straight girls but after happy hour could be found hooking up with one another. Oh the power of really strong margaritas.

  5. well I’ll speak for myself, the non-sexual one. I’ve noticed similar studies for adopted folk like myself. WTF. The self-medicating for the pain of being different I guess. Not to mention the psychological grief.

    • That’s an excellent point! I think the alienation of being gay or adopted or coming from a divorced home (another study I’ve seen recently) could all be triggers for alcoholism and addiction.

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