Evidence relating to substance misuse among lesbian and bisexual women is incredibly limited. However, a small number of studies do show and increased use of cannabis and cocaine among lesbian and bisexual women compared to heterosexual women. Almost no UK studies focus exclusively on trans and non-binary people.

Barriers to accessing support

A large proportion healthcare campaigns and support services focusing on substance use are targeted to gay and bisexual men. As a result, you may feel excluded or unsure if substance misuse services can help because they focus heavily on support for gay and bisexual men. Other possible barriers to accessing services may include:

  • Having concerns that substance misuse services don’t recognise the overlap between alcohol and drugs, especially within the LGBT community
  • Fear of discrimination because of your sexual orientation, gender or trans status
  • Feeling worried that accessing support will disconnect you from your social circle
  • Feeling unsure as to whether you’ll be supported holistically, recognising multiple parts of your identity and not just focusing on substance use or LGBT status
  • Lack of accessibility to mainstream services and an absence of LGBT specific services. This could relate to lack of transport links or even the build itself being inaccessible for people who experience a disability
  • Concerns about shame, stigma and discrimination because you have engaged with substances

You may also struggle to acknowledge that your substance use has become problematic. This is especially true if your primary social and support network are also engaging in substances.

Sophia’s experience:

"I came to the LGBT Foundation after getting in trouble with the police and going through a relationship breakdown. I was in a volatile relationship where we both used cocaine and alcohol a lot. After being arrested for being drunk and disorderly during a bad row, my partner left and I struggled to cope alone. I spiralled more and more and attempted suicide, which is when I contacted the LGBT Foundation for help. Never once did Louise or the team judge me and it was good to speak to people who could understand my situation. We looked at reasons why I behaved how I did and that there was more too it like past experiences, previous relationships and it was a lot of self-medicating.

We considered the situations and social groups I hung round in and how this affected me and looked at what I really wanted out of life. I relapsed a couple of times but always felt I could be open and honest about it so we could look at why and what triggered it. I started attending group sessions so I could see I was not alone and spent more time on self-care and got back into exercise.

The Foundation has always been on hand for when I needed to chat, giving me different coping mechanisms and outlets to vent instead of turning to alcohol and drinks. I had counselling around my mental health and past traumas and am now in a good place to enable me to move forward in life from my past. If anyone is struggling then please don't hesitate to get in touch - we all need a helping hand sometime."

How do I know when I should get help?

Reaching out and accessing support is a personal and individual choice. If you feel that your substance use is problematic, completing a drug intake questionnaire can be helpful. A drug intake questionnaires establish how often you engage in substances and whether your intake is considered high risk and/or dependent. Taking the questionnaire regularly is a simple way of identifying any changes or increase in your substance use.

You can find a copy of the drug intake questions on our website here.

Similar questions for measuring your alcohol intake can be found here.

What support is available?

LGBT Foundation provides one-to-one support sessions for LGBT people living in Manchester. These sessions are person-centred and use a variety of approaches so you can find the version of recovery that works best for you. Some of the approaches include:

  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) tools
  • Mindfulness
  • Meditation and Compassion

If you’d like more information about joining a group or just want an informal chat about substances, please contact Louise at [email protected].