LGBTQ+ Teen Addiction: What We Need to Understand About Inclusive Care
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Teens who identify as LGBTQ+ face discrimination and a myriad of issues that may lead them to try and ultimately become addicted to substances. Research shows that LGBTQ+ teens are twice as likely to use substances compared to their peers who identify as heterosexual. [1] LGBTQ+ youth are also at a greater risk of using multiple substances, which can lead to greater harm. As we take a closer look at why this is the case, we’ll examine the risk factors that lead to LGBTQ+ teen addiction and the importance of LGBTQ+ inclusive care at treatment centers.

Why LGBTQ+ Youth Are at Greater Risk of Substance Abuse

LGBTQ+ youth find themselves at a greater risk of substance abuse for several reasons. Some teens may be dealing with one or more of these situations that are driving them to use different substances.

Disconnection from Families

When some teens reveal their true sexual orientation, their families may not give them the support they need. These can lead them to feel disconnected from their families and turn to substances for comfort. Research shows that young minority adults who are rejected by their families are more than three times as likely to use drugs compared to those who have their family’s acceptance. [2]


LGBTQ+ teens whose families reject them may also face homelessness. Some are forced out, while others choose to leave on their own. This puts these teens at a higher risk of using substances than teens who have a roof over their heads.


Some LGBTQ+ teens may experience anxiety in social situations for fear they will not be accepted by others. They may turn to drugs or alcohol to take the edge off and feel more relaxed.

School Bullying

LGBTQ+ teens are bullied at an alarming rate. Statistics show that 9 out of 10 LGBTQ+ students reported being harassed and bullied over the course of one year. [3] When teens face this type of verbal and physical abuse, they may turn to substances for comfort.


Discrimination is a fierce reality for many LGBTQ+ teens. Many are the victims of hate crimes and other violent acts. According to The Trevor Project, 71% of transgender and nonbinary youth experienced discrimination based on their gender identity. [4] These situations can lead teens to try different substances to ease their pain.

Any of these situations can lead to damaging consequences for LGBTQ+ teens who are looking for acceptance and believe they can only find comfort in abusing substances.

Health Concerns for LGBTQ+ Teens Who Use Substances

LGBTQ+ youth are not only at a greater risk for substance use, but they also face greater health risks. These include [5]:

  • Sexually transmitted disease
  • Motor vehicle crashes
  • Injuries resulting from fighting

They are also at risk for poor school performance and decreased engagement at school. These are among the many reasons why finding substance abuse treatment plans that include the LGBTQ+ community is so important.

The Importance of LGBTQ+ Inclusive Care

Inclusive care is vital for LGBTQ+ teen addiction because teens feel marginalized by society due to the depression and isolation that social stigmas may leave on them. When these stigmas lead teens to drugs and alcohol, finding a treatment program that includes them and addresses their unique needs is crucial if they want to make a change in their lives.

A substance abuse treatment program for LGBTQ+ teens can include a combination of group and individual therapy sessions to help teens identify their negative thoughts and behaviors and what factors lead to their substance use.

Teens entering a substance abuse program will also undergo a mental and physical evaluation. Many LGBTQ+ teens dealing with a substance use disorder are also facing mental health issues. Treating both of these conditions at once is key to helping teens overcome both.

The goal of LGBTQ+ inclusive care for substance abuse is to not only treat the substance use disorder but also let teens know that they are valuable and worthy of receiving treatment. They need to feel accepted into a program, especially if it has been difficult for them to find acceptance elsewhere.

Treatment centers that provide help for LGBTQ+ teens facing a substance abuse problem, such as Ember Recovery, have staff on hand who are specially trained to help teens deal with their specific issues.

What Parents Can Do to Help Their LGBTQ+ Teen Dealing with Addiction

Show Support

Many LGBTQ+ teens turn to drugs and alcohol because they feel that they don’t have support from their families. Giving teens someone to turn to can help them as they battle their addiction.

Have an Open Conversation

Talk with your teen about the struggles they are having. Allow your teen to feel comfortable sharing their problems and hopefully realize the need for help.

Seek Outside Treatment

Finding an inclusive treatment program can be key to helping LGBTQ+ teens overcome their substance abuse disorder. Many teens cannot quit and stay sober on their own. Professionals will be able to find a suitable program to address your teen’s specific needs. They will also be able to help them find healthy alternatives to drugs and alcohol once their program is complete.

Treating LGBTQ+ Teen Addiction at Ember Recovery

At Ember Recovery, our LGBTQIA+ treatment program is welcoming and recognizes the unique risks that teens in this community face daily. We are inclusive and offer support for teens to battle their addictions and move forward.

Many LGBTQ+ teens will benefit from a residential treatment program like the one Ember Recovery offers. They will live with the gender they identify with to provide them with peer support for the similar struggles they are facing. Our goal is to find the safest, most comfortable setting for your teen to thrive.

We understand that LGBTQ+ teens can feel extremely isolated and need to feel that they are not alone in their fight. At Ember Recovery, we offer a transparent and open process so that parents can have peace of mind that their teen is being cared for by an experienced and supportive team.

For more information on our inclusive LGBTQIA+ program, call us today or reach out to us online.