Soaring Transgender Addiction Rates and the Need for Compassionate Care

Substance use and other mental health conditions touch all communities and types of people. But for individuals who are transgender, addiction rates and rates of other mental illnesses tend to be much higher than those in the general population. This is largely due to the increased social, political, and economic barriers that many transgender people face and the emotional stress caused by discrimination and harassment in adolescence and beyond. 

We’ve come a long way in our understanding of the trans experience. However, statistics surrounding transgender mental health and substance use disorder rates are a clear sign that there’s much more work to be done, especially when it comes to offering safe, compassionate substance use treatment services to the transgender community.

Below, we’re touching on some of the unique mental health challenges faced by transgender individuals and their impact on substance use rates, plus why a supportive space to heal is critical if we want to make a difference.

Transgender Rates of Substance Abuse

Gay and transgender individuals experience rates of substance use that are “disproportionately higher” than those of the general population, according to the Center for American Progress.

So what does that look like?  

  • Transgender individuals are 50% more likely to report binge drinking in the past month than cisgender individuals.  
  • One study found that transgender youths were more than 3x as likely to engage in high-risk alcohol consumption than their cisgender peers.
  • The same study found that transgender young adults were nearly 5x more likely to report illicit drug use in the month prior when compared to their cisgender peers.

How Transgender Mental Health Issues Make Substance Use More Likely

In 2016, the National Center for Transgender Equality released a report highlighting the “devastating levels of discrimination” faced by transgender individuals. This discrimination touches every aspect of life, the report continued, including patterns of mistreatment that those who do not identify as trans or LGBTQ+ may not even be aware of.  

In addition to discrimination, many transgender individuals also must learn to navigate the troubling effects of minority stress (a health disparity related to the impact of the dominant culture on minority culture) and, as is often the case, a lack of support from those closest to them. 

As a result of these various factors, transgender individuals face higher rates of mental health conditions and substance use compared to cisgender individuals. Unfortunately, this often leads to a harmful cycle for transgender men and women, as excessive substance use can be challenging to overcome. Although individuals turn to substances as a way to manage depression, anxiety, and other mental health challenges that stem from their experiences, these substances ultimately exacerbate these issues and make it even more challenging to lead a healthy lifestyle.

Treating Transgender Issues in Mental Health with Compassionate Care

To better meet the needs of transgender individuals suffering from substance use and other mental health disorders, we must offer greater access to safe, supportive, and compassionate environments uniquely targeted to their lived experiences. 

The fundamental principle of the compassionate care model is that treatment should be issued with empathy and a comprehensive understanding of the underlying factors. Regarding the transgender community, this necessitates treatment programs that tackle mental health issues and substance use treatment together within a supportive environment where people can freely express their genuine identity.

At Retreat Behavioral Health, we are committed to providing allied substance use treatment services to all those in the LGBTQ+ community, including trans men and women. If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use or another mental health condition, please contact us today to learn about our dedicated LGBTQ+ services and our broader mission of compassionate care for all.