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Addiction center raising awareness of drug addiction in older LGBTQ community

Addiction impacting the LGBTQ community
Posted at 7:49 AM, Jun 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-23 23:18:27-04

NAPLES, Fla.  — Wednesday marks the last week of Pride Month and the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation is trying to raise awareness about addiction.

A study done by New York University shows that older LGBTQ adults are actually more likely to abuse certain drugs and alcohol than their straight counterparts.

According to New York University:

  • 25,880 responses from adults aged 50 and older
  • marijuana: 13.9% versus 5.5%
  • prescription tranquilizers non-medically: 3.6% versus 1.1%
  • prescription opioids non-medically: 4.7% versus 2.3%

Researchers looked at more than 25,000 adults 50 and older from around the country.

2.5% of them identified as lesbian, gay, or bisexual.

They were asked about their recent drug and alcohol use over the past year.

LGBTQ adults were more than twice as likely as heterosexuals to use recreational marijuana, twice as likely to use prescription tranquilizers, and more likely to use prescription opioids.

The Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, a nationwide organization with treatment centers in Naples said Pride Month needs to be about celebration but also, education.

“Some of the beer companies they sponsor events that tend to obviously endorse drinking. I do think there is a lot of education that we can do, it's a work I progress. it doesn't just go away, it's not a checkmark that you can just check off," said Al Updike, Director, Outpatient Program Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation.

He says stressors like discrimination and stigma based on sexual orientation play a big factor.

“Those factors can tend to lead to social isolation, and people might feel stigmatized and isolated from their support network. It just seems to go in line with wanting to escape, so oftentimes that's what ends up happening and drugs and alcohol seem to be the go-to for that..a quick easy escape,” said Updike.

He says this is something that has been happening for a long time and is finally being recognized.

At Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, Updike says treating this type of addiction is about more than just substance abuse.

“What is it that they are hoping to get from the effect of drugs and alcohol or what they might be running away from and we try to really identify if there is any shame or any guilt, any fears. Often times there might be some systematic trauma or just cultural trauma,” he said.