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LGBTQ Alcohol Addiction Treatment: Rehab Programs

Do you know an LGBTQ individual with an alcohol or drug problem? Fortunately, American addiction centers now offer specialized treatment for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and questioning people who struggle with alcohol.

Alcohol addiction is a tragic factor in the LGTBQ community. Roughly one in four LGBTQ individuals (25%) has a problem with alcohol abuse, compared to only 6% of the general adult population.

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Alcohol and Drug Abuse in the LGBTQ Community

Drugs and alcohol are long entrenched in the LGBTQ community. When gay urban culture first gained visibility during the late 1960s, the gay rights movement was heavily associated with the bar scene. 

In gay neighborhoods like Christopher Street (Manhattan), West Hollywood, and the Castro District (San Francisco), bars offered some of the only places citywide for gays to meet and vibe off of like-minded people.

When the only refuge from a hostile world is the bar environment, drinking inevitably becomes a major part of the culture. This is especially true for older LGBTQ individuals, who have a lower tolerance for alcohol and drink for different reasons than their younger counterparts, including:

  • Grief – loss of loved ones (family, friends, romantic partners) is a common catalyst of alcoholic behavior.
  • Despair – late-life regret over lost dreams and unfulfilled potential.
  • Uncertainty – anxiety over finances, job loss, living situation and health.

For younger LGBTQ individuals, the problem often stems from binge drinking. People under 21 often binge drink at parties to avoid getting caught. This leads to early alcohol dependency and can also stunt brain development in young individuals.

The problem is more dangerous for lesbians because the female body has a lower threshold for alcohol.

Substance Abuse Treatment Programs

Alcohol treatment programs are offered nationwide at American addiction centers. Addiction treatment usually consists of two or more of the following:


This begins the moment a patient enters alcohol rehab and abstains from alcohol consumption. Detox usually takes between three and seven days, during which time all remaining traces of alcohol clear the body.

Detox is a tough yet vital stage of recovery. During detox, the patient overcomes the hardest urges of his/her alcoholic addiction. This is harder than it seems, especially during days two and three, when cravings peak and most patients suffer withdrawal symptoms (nausea, dizziness, headaches, physical discomfort). 

To ensure success with detox and take recovery to the next stage, detox should always be undertaken with the guidance and supervision of detoxification staff at a rehab facility. At most treatment centers, staff administers detox medication to help patients overcome withdrawal.

Residential Treatment

For LGBTQ individuals seeking treatment, most alcohol rehab centers offer residential treatment with friendly program features for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning patients. A residential treatment program includes:

  • Therapy – Each patient meets with an appointed counselor to discuss his/her history of drinking and illicit drug abuse. This helps doctors pinpoint the co-occurring disorders in each patient (depression trauma) and customize the treatment program to the needs of the individual.
  • Group Meetings – Patients meet in groups to discuss their progress and lingering struggles with alcohol and substance abuse. This allows sexual minority adults to discuss their problems with like-minded individuals.
  • Wellness Activities – Patients engage in activities that stimulate the mind and body, such as art therapy, exercise, yoga, music therapy, hiking, equine therapy and animal care.
  • Health – Residential rehab patients are encouraged to eat healthily and maintain an active lifestyle. Most people who drink heavily lack these disciplines. Rehab helps patients master the daily habits of sober people.

Residential rehab typically lasts 30-90 days. Today’s treatment providers take a holistic approach designed to treat the mind, body and soul. LGBTQ substance abuse treatment follows the same guidelines as treatment geared toward the heterosexual counterparts of lesbian, gay and transgender patients.

Outpatient Treatment

Treatment centers also offer daytime treatment for alcohol and substance abuse. In outpatient programs, the patient comes to the rehab facility in the morning or afternoon for treatment and lives at home. Outpatient treatment falls into two main categories:

  • Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP) – Full-time treatment for alcohol or substance abuse. The patient comes in every day, usually for 6-8 hours. PHP programs consist of at least 20 hours per week of treatment.
  • Intensive Outpatient Treatment (IOP) – Part-time treatment, where the patient arrives in the morning, afternoon or evening for approximately three hours of treatment, 3-5 times per week. IOP programs can range from 9-19 hours of treatment each week.

Outpatient treatment covers the same ground as residential inpatient treatment: wellness, education, health, activities, group sessions and individual therapy. Outpatient centers practice rehab and therapy in accordance with the Mental Health Services Administration.

Additional Programs

Most addiction treatment centers offer additional options for people seeking addiction treatment, including:

  • Family Therapy – Family members often feel estranged from addicted loved ones. Likewise, people with substance issues often feel misunderstood, especially those in the LGBTQ community. In rehab family therapy, counselors help mend these gaps.
  • Aftercare – For patients who complete residential or outpatient addiction treatment, most rehab centers offer aftercare programs. Whenever a former patient needs further encouragement, guidance or advice, most centers offer further help.

Members of the LGBTQ community face discrimination for their sexual orientation. Today’s rehab centers offer treatment designed for the substance use issues and co-occurring mental health disorders of recovering individuals.

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The LGTBQ community suffers ostracization from society daily. When combined with the other struggles that many LGBTQ individuals face — financial uncertainty, threats, issues with gender identity — they’re likelier than their heterosexual counterparts to develop drinking problems.

If you have an LBGTQ loved one who needs rehab, explore the treatment options in your area and get help before it’s too late.

Get Help Today

Don't go through the process of recovery alone. There are people who can help you with the struggle you're facing. Get in touch with one today.

Make a Call

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