Women's Programme Substance Misuse

Substance use is four times higher among LGBT women compared to heterosexual women. Despite this, there is a deficit of research relating to the needs of LGBT women and barely any studies focusing solely on substance use among trans women.

Most substance use services do not cater for the unique experiences of LGBT people, or if they do, it is often in relation to gay and bisexual men e.g. Chemsex. As a result, LGBT women are overlooked within substance use services.

Substance Use and Alcohol

Substance use primarily refers to recreational drugs, which can be taken with or without alcohol. It is estimated that 29% of lesbian and bisexual women binge drink compared to only 12% of heterosexual women. A 2012 study into trans health found that 62% of trans people were either abusing alcohol or categorised as alcohol dependent.

Therefore, bars and clubs pose a considerable risk for LGBT women as they are, and have historically been, the safe spaces for LGBT people to meet and connect with others within the community. In turn, concerns regarding social isolation and lack of community is one of the reasons why LGBT women may be reticent to disengage from alcohol and substance use.

Stigma and Minority Stress

Stigma, discrimination and minority stress can exacerbate both substance use and alcohol consumption. They are also the reasons why LGBT women are less likely to engage with mainstream substance use services. Lack of relevant, inclusive and visible messaging for LGBT women when seeking support can further compound minority stress and poor mental health.

Some research highlights that LGBT women with a mental health diagnosis are at increased risk of substance use, which may act as a coping mechanism for poor mental health. In addition, multiple protected characteristics such as someone’s age, ethnicity, religion, trans status etc. may contribute to minority stress (and subsequent substance use) but could also be barriers to accessing substance use services, even those that are LGBT specific.

Iman’s experience

“I’ve just recently come out rehabilitation after completing 6 months of treatment... I enjoyed the groups there... but sometimes I felt like I wasn’t understood or that people weren’t clued up about what it’s like being a transgender woman and also what it was like coming from a very strict Muslim background and being transgender, I felt like a minority... after my treatment completed... I decided to do my after-care treatment back in Manchester and with the LGBT Foundation... as I’m at the end of my transition and due to have GRS soon so I wanted to be part of a network that would support me through this change and also help me through trans issues... I attend the ‘Here and now group’ on a Tuesdaywhich is about things going on for you in the Present moment and then ‘The Smart group’ on a Thursday... which is my favourite as it’s from CBT approach... and I learn coping and managing tools although it was different to the groups at the rehab...AA and NA, it was change... I soon adapted and was understood and respected and most of all heard... a lot of sharing and relating, which I really like. I’ve also made lots of new friends and feel connected again... with like-minded people with similar backgrounds,I’m really grateful to Louise and Tyler (substance misuse counsellors)for being so accommodating and helpful in my aftercare treatment... also Louise for one to one counselling at the LGBT which has been very helpful... as I found it hard to adapt back to life in Manchester and she’s been very supportive... So would highly recommend this organisation to anyone from any race, religion, sexuality and gender... you can really be yourself here.

Do you know your drug score?

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 a number of supportive services, including substance misuse groups. All groups are friendly, non-judgemental and welcome new faces. Check them out here.

LGBT Foundation also 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].

For further support and resources about substance misuse, click here.