Substance use and abuse in LGBTQ communities of Wisconsin is a complex issue and often prompts an array of feelings.
Surveys indicate that youth and adults in Wisconsin, in general, have very high rates of alcohol use and abuse in contrast to the rest of the United States. While the rates of alcohol use in Wisconsin are high, the rates of alcohol use among LGBTQ people do not differ greatly. Among LGBTQ youth in Wisconsin, there is an earlier onset of alcohol use and a greater likelihood of binge drinking, as well as significantly higher rates of use of tobacco, cocaine, inhalants, ecstasy, and heroin.
Historically in the United States, bars and clubs have played and continue to play a vital part in the development of LGBTQ communities. Especially in smaller and less-developed communities, the importance of bars to the LGBTQ community cannot be overstated. This reality greatly complicates the mechanisms to address substance use.
For some LGBTQ people, addressing substance use is challenged by a limited number of culturally-competent Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse (AODA) providers and/or a lack of insurance coverage for such services. For others, substance use is viewed as a rite of passage, a factor associated with community membership, or a method of coping with the stressors associated with homophobia.
When it comes to addressing substance use and abuse among adults in Wisconsin, prevention includes providing safe zones or healthy venues where alcohol and other drug use is not encouraged, as well as informing community members about tobacco and other drug use, corporate targeting of LGBTQ people, and the lack of healthy venues. For addressing substance use and abuse among LGBTQ youth, prevention includes the use of evidence-based approaches that provide clear information on refusal skills, peer supports, and fun alternatives.
Whether addressing adult or youth substance use or abuse, all of the listed strategies play a part in eliminating the dangerous health disparities in substance use that limit the length and quality of our lives. Diverse & Resilient is also a member of the Milwaukee County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition, State Council on Alcohol and other Drug Abuse, and the City of Milwaukee Tobacco-Free Alliance.
For more information about talking with your AODA provider or health professional, click here to access our LGBT Passport to Health.
Learn more about our programs related to substance use: