Key messages

  • To better respond to clients who are LGBTI, services need to understand the relationship between illicit drug use, alcohol use and sexual risk-taking;
  • They also need to understand the influences on drug and alcohol use; and the mental health implications of LGBTI people’s efforts to deal with and discrimination.
  • Services should have working relationships and referral pathways with sexual health and mental health services.
  • Services should link clients to LGBTI communities and support networks as part of treatment. 
There are several aspects of alcohol and drug use among LGBTI communities that can be of concern.
  • Research has shown a link between illicit drug use and sexual risk-taking.
  • Rates of crystal methamphetamine (ice) use amongst gay men that are higher than those in the broader community are of particular concern.
  • Bisexual men and women have higher rates of alcohol and other drug use.
  • Gay men have higher rates of alcohol and other drug use than heterosexual men.
  • Lesbian women are more likely to drink alcohol in harmful amounts than heterosexual women, and smoking is more prevalent among lesbian, bisexual and queer women.
  • LGBTI young people are more likely than heterosexual young people to drink alcohol, smoke and use illicit drugs.
For people who are LGBTI, drug and alcohol use can also be related to coping with pressures associated with accepting their own sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status, coming out, entering the social scene or hiding their sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status when they feel unsafe.

The LGBTI population has difficulty accessing drug treatment programs and are likely to have lower treatment success rates than the general population if they feel their needs are not being met.

Responding to the needs of people who are LGBTI 

Strategies to better respond to the needs of LGBTI clients include:
  • Educate and support to staff in areas including:
    • the relationship between illicit drug use, alcohol use and sexual risk-taking, including how to take sexual histories with clients (where appropriate).
    • drug and alcohol use as a tool for coping with discrimination, stigma and their associated mental health impacts.
    • other influences on LGBTI drug and alcohol use
  • Develop working relationships and referral pathways with sexual health and mental health services.
  • Link clients to LGBTI community and support networks as part of treatment programs and follow up where appropriate.

Youth Drugs and Alcohol Advice (YoDAA)

YoDAA provides young people with alcohol and drug information, support options, service finder and options for self-help. For support and advice phone the free 24 hour YoDAA line 1800 458 685 or to raise a query about alcohol and drugs email YoDAA for a response within 72 hours. To access alcohol and drug information, advice and treatment options for young people visit the website

DirectLine

DirectLine is a 24/7 telephone and online service which supports people seeking alcohol and other drug information, advice or referral to treatment. DirectLine is a statewide point of access to the alcohol and other drug treatment system offering confidential advice and support to primary alcohol and drug users, their family and friends. DirectLine counsellors can be contacted on 1800 888 236.

References

DoHA, 2011, National Drug Strategy 2010-2015 (Ministerial Council on Drug Strategy), Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra.

Hughes, T., Szalacha, L. A., and McNair, R., 2010, Substance abuse and mental health disparities: Comparisons across sexual identity groups in a national sample of young Australian women, Social Science & Medicine 71(4):824-831.

Leonard, W., Dowsett, G., Slavin, S., Mitchell, A., and Pitts, M., 2008, Crystal clear: The social determinants of gay men's use of methamphetamine in Victoria, in: Monograph Series Number 67, The Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, La Trobe University, Melbourne.

Leonard, W., Pitts, M., Mitchell, A., Lyons, A., Smith, A., Patel, Sunil., Couch, M., and Barrett, A., 2012, Private Lives 2: the second national survey of the health and wellbeing of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) Australians, Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health & Society, La Trobe University , Melbourne.

McNair, R., 2014, ALICE Study Final Report to beyondblue, The University of Melbourne, Turning Point, GLHV, Deakin.

Pennay, A., McNair, R., Lubman, D. I., Brown, R., Valpied, J., Leonard, L., Hegarty, K., and Hughes, T., 2013, The ALICE Study: Alcohol and lesbian/bisexual women: insights into culture and emotions, Drug and Alcohol Review 32(S1):57-58.