LGBTQIA+, Recovery, and Sober Living

LGBTQIA+, Recovery, and Sober Living

This article is written with the attempt to inform and educate members of the sober living community, including recovery residence operators and those who live in or work in a sober house. According to a number of addiction and recovery studies, 30% of LGBTQIA+ people suffer from some form of addiction, compared to 9% of the general population.


Those who identify as lesbian, homosexual, bisexual, or other (LGBTQIA+) orientations comprise about 4% of the population of the United States. Statistically, these individuals are more likely to develop drug use disorders than heterosexuals. Gay, lesbian, and bisexual people are 18% more likely to be addicted to alcohol, 20% more likely to have a substance use disorder, and 5.9% more likely to abuse prescription drugs.


Despite recent progress, sexual minorities have long been underrepresented in both social and political circles, and they continue to face stigma and prejudice. Within the LGBTQIA+ population, there are many subgroups, each with its own set of sensitivities and needs that must be addressed in order to achieve long-term recovery.


According to the latest National Recovery Study results, approximately 12% of the 22.35 million Americans who have overcome a serious alcohol or drug addiction identify as LGBTQIA+.


LGBTQ Sensitivities by Category


  1. Co-Occurring Disorders


Co-occurring mental disorders are more common in sexual minorities with drug use disorders.

In LGBTQ+ patients, depression, self-harm, suicidal thoughts, low self-esteem, and anxiety are all common.


Gay, lesbian, and bisexual men and women are more likely than heterosexuals to experience mental distress and depression.


In contrast to their non-transgender peers, transgender youth have higher rates of depression, suicidality, self-harm, and eating disorders.


The risk of fatal opioid overdose is 3x higher for those diagnosed with depression, and 6x higher for those diagnosed with severe mental illness, so co-occurring conditions must be treated.


  1. Discrimination & Stigma


In the United States, discrimination against members of the LGBTQIA+ community is often manifested as a fear of, contempt for, or bigotry against non-heterosexual people. Those who manage recovery residences must be aware of these challenges and work to build accessible sober living for those who present as non-heterosexual as a sober house applicant or resident.


Discrimination can take many forms, including:


  • Government policy that is exclusionary


  • Isolation, peer victimization, and social rejection of family or friends


  • Hate crimes, threats, or interpersonal abuse are both examples of interpersonal violence.


  • Access to high-quality healthcare, accommodation, and jobs are all hampered (in 28 states, being LGBTQIA+ is grounds for employment termination, and in 30 states being transgender is grounds for employment termination).


Substance use disorder is one of the most stigmatized health disorders in the world, and it may be exacerbated or aggravated by or in combination with additional stigma linked to one’s sexual orientation.


  1. Healthcare Access in Recovery in Sober Living


Nearly one quarter of those who identify as homosexual, lesbian, or bisexual lack health insurance, while nearly 82% of straight or heterosexual people have health insurance. For transgender individuals, the coverage rate drops to 57 percent.


Owing to stigma, a lack of understanding, poor training among healthcare providers, and insensitivity to the individual’s special needs, LGBTQIA+ people are more likely to receive lower quality treatment in healthcare settings. This is likely the case in sober living and recovery residence settings as well.


LGBTQIA+ individuals can find it difficult to reveal their sexual orientation to healthcare providers, and especially to those in a sober living or recovery residence setting. In a healthcare setting, this makes it difficult for the individual to develop a strong therapeutic partnership with care providers.



Supporting LGBTQ+ in Treatment & Sober Living / Recovery Residences


It’s important to remember that there are different paths to recovery and that each person with a drug use disorder handles things differently. For a more well-rounded and equitable road to rehabilitation, treatment services as well as sober living homes and recovery residences should meet the specialized needs of members of the LGBTQIA+ community in a sober house. Sober house operators and clinicians becoming mindful of the additional stigma/discrimination that such individuals may face in addition to their drug use disorder, as well as having a more person-centered approach to best meet their needs in a sober living environment. More research is required to look at LGBTQIA+ identity as a factor that may increase the risk of relapse, as well as the mechanisms by which this may happen.



Resources for LGBTQIA+ in a Sober House & Recovery Residence



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