Drugs, Alcohol and Tobacco Use in LGBTI Communities
Linking sexuality and gender identity with drug, alcohol and tobacco use
There is a growing body of evidence linking same-sex attraction with elevated levels of drug, alcohol and tobacco use. Research also shows that drug and alcohol use is high among transgender people. While part of the reason for this is cultural, particularly for younger gay men, much of the higher levels of use can be attributed to the discrimination and marginalization faced by LGBTI communities in Australia.
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A 2005 national survey of 5,476 LGBTI Australians, Private Lives, showed that patterns of drug use among respondents were somewhat higher than in the Australian population. The survey found that 16% of respondents had reported marijuana use more than five times in the last month with 9% using ecstasy, 5% using speed and 3% using crystal at the same level2. Data from the 2006 Sydney Gay Community Periodic Survey indicated that 21% of gay men in Sydney used crystal methamphetamine in the past six months3 and research overseas suggests that there is an association between the use of recreational drugs, particularly crystal methamphetamine, and unprotected sex amongst men4. Research into young same-sex attracted youth has found that they are significantly more likely to use drugs than heterosexual youth, with a strong relationship between homophobic abuse and drug use5.
Evidence also suggests that problematic alcohol use exists for some LGBTI communities. Results from the Longitudinal Study of the Health of Australian Women showed that 7% of same-sex attracted female respondents aged 22-27 engaged in risky alcohol use compared to 3.9% of heterosexual female respondents in the same age bracket6.
Addressing the issue
In order to effectively address the high levels of drug, alcohol and tobacco use among LGBTI Australians, the following is needed:
- Further LGBTI-specific research as well as the inclusion of sexuality and gender identity questions in general drug and alcohol research
- Government funding for culturally appropriate programs that use a range of service delivery methods which includes prevention, early intervention, harm reduction and treatment
- The implementation of the principle of harm reduction in programs and service delivery that address drug and alcohol use.
- Pitts, M., Smith, A., Mitchell, A., Patel, S. (2006) Private Lives: A Report on the Health and Wellbeing of LGBTI Australians, Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, La Trobe University, Melbourne, p.34
- Ibid, p.34
- Zablotska. I. et al. (2007) Sydney Gay Community Periodic Survey, National Centre in HIV Social Research and National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research, UNSW, p.23
- Drumright, L. et al. (2006) Unprotected anal intercourse and substance use among men who have sex with men with recent HIV infection. Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, 43(3): 344-350
- Hillier, L., Turner, A., & Mitchell A. (2005) Writing Themselves In Again: The 2nd National Report on the Sexual Health & Wellbeing of Same-Sex Attracted Young People in Australia, Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health & Society (ARCSHS) La Trobe University, Melbourne Australia, p.55
- Hillier, L., de Visser, R. O., Kavanagh, A., & McNair, R.(2004). The drug-use patterns of heterosexual and non-heterosexual women: Data from the Women's Health Australia Study. In D.W. Riggs & G.A. Walker, (Eds.) Out in the Antipodes: Australian and New Zealand Perspectives on Gay and Lesbian Issues in Psychology, Bentley WA: Brightfire Press.
- op cit, p.34