Substance Misuse Programs May Benefit from a More Inclusive Approach

Minority youth are at increased risk for psychological and psychosocial challenges. Research suggests that the discrimination and prejudice often experienced by minority individuals lead to high levels of stress. This stress is often internalized and can cause depression, anxiety, panic, and fear. When externalized, this emotional stress can be exhibited in anger, frustration, or aggression. People under this type of stress are more likely to cope with their feelings in harmful ways, such as by misusing drugs and alcohol. Although there is abundant evidence to demonstrate this cause and effect among racial minority groups, religious minority groups, and people with physical and mental impairments, the direct relationship between psychosocial stress and substance use among youths with minority sexual orientations (SO) is less clear.

Karin L. Brewster of the Center for Demography and Population Health and the Department of Sociology at Florida State University sought to expand upon the existing research in this area. She recently led a study that assessed how sexual attraction, sexual identity, and sexual experience affected drug and alcohol misuse among a group of young adults. She evaluated how the participants defined their sexual identity in relation to their attraction and experience. Overall, Brewster found that the women were more likely to identify with broader sexual categories. Specifically, more men than women reported being exclusively heterosexual, while more women reported being attracted to people of the same sex. Additionally, women had a history of more same-sex partners than the male participants.

When Brewster examined substance use among the participants, she discovered that the men had higher rates of tobacco and marijuana use and binge drinking, regardless of their sexual identity. Brewster also found that substance use was predicted by sexual experience rather than sexual attraction or sexual identity. This finding suggests that programs that are designed to address substance use issues in LGBTQ young adults may fail to include all of the sexual minority individuals at risk. Brewster said, “Instead, intervention programs that are specifically inclusive of different sexualities and that emphasize mutual respect and self-competence may be more appropriate—and, ultimately, more effective.”

Brewster, K. L., Harker Tillman, K. (2012). Sexual orientation and substance use among adolescents and young adults. American Journal of Public Health, 102.6, 1168-1176.

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  • Ginger


    June 1st, 2012 at 10:57 AM

    Yes, I see the need to have abuse programs which are aimed to include everyone and discriminate against no one. But how can you ever desing a program that you know will reach everyone? there is only so much that you can do, and so many different ways to do things which will aim to prevent drug use and abuse. I feel bad for those groups who don’t think that there is a program which is super specific to their needs, so maybe the real thing is to identify which style of prevention works best and then modify within those set programs so that you can feel like you are reaching more and more people with the message.

  • Keith W

    Keith W

    June 1st, 2012 at 2:42 PM

    My feeling is that a good program is a good program; if it works then it doesn’t really matter what group you identify with. Part of this sounds like just more excuses to not get straight, but I am the type who can see through that. If someone wats to make a change and get better, then he will find something in that prevention program that he or ahe can relate to and give it a chance.

  • Jemima


    June 2nd, 2012 at 6:58 AM

    If someone already feels confused about their identity and who they are, then if they feel alienated by their program they are in then the level of recovery is not going to be nearly as strong as it would be if they were in a program that felt more supportive to them and accommodating to their own personal feelings and needs.

  • JasoN


    June 2nd, 2012 at 7:20 PM

    Why do they always think gay people have substance abuse issues and are just into drugs and alcohol and addictions?? There are addicts in every group and community and it would be wrong to judge.

    Yes, there might have been cases wherein external factors of opposition have led a gay person to substance abuse but that does not mean it happens to most of the group!

  • GrillKing


    June 3rd, 2012 at 8:42 AM

    These are kids that I worry about, I really do.
    I am not sure that they are getting the support from society that they need to make it.
    I know that people have differing views on homosexuality, some find it ok and some find it to be an abhorence.
    But these are kids. They don’t deserve to be left to flounder just because of their sexual orientation.
    they deserve to be treated like human beings, that’s what they deserve.
    And shouldn’t we do anything that we can to make sure that their needs are being met, too?

  • GabbiMae


    June 4th, 2012 at 3:36 PM

    If women are so much more open minded when it comes to sexuality in the first place, then I have a hard time seeing how they could view a program as not being inclusive. If they are more willing to see things with an open mind then how does that not apply to substance abuse programs too?

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