Metro Weekly

LGBQ youth twice as likely to use illegal drugs as straight youth

Queer teenagers reported higher rates of heroin, alcohol, marijuana and cigarette use than their straight peers

Photo: Jason Burrows / Flickr

A new study has found that LGBQ youth are twice as likely to use illegal drugs compared with straight youth.

The study, Substance Use Among Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Questioning Adolescents in the United States, was published by researchers at San Diego State University in California last month, Reuters reports.

By analysing data from almost 15,000 high schoolers, researchers examined both lifelong substance abuse in addition to use within the past month. The substances included illegal drugs, alcohol, marijuana and cigarettes.

Lifetime substance abuse among LGBQ teens (the study didn’t account for gender identity) was 12% higher than their straight peers, while the number of students who reported substance abuse in the month prior to the survey was 27% higher than for straight teens.

LGBQ youth were three times as likely to try heroin (6.6% versus 1.3%) or methamphetamines (8.6% versus 2.1%), and twice as likely to try ecstasy or cocaine.

Comparatively, marijuana use was much higher for all teens — half of LGBQ youth reported having tried it, versus almost 38% of straight teens.

Smoking and alcohol use were also higher among LGBQ teens — 47% had tried smoking at least once, and 72% had drank at least once. That compares with 31% and 63% respectively for straight youth.

John Ayers, senior study author, told Reuters that stress factors such as isolation “may make drugs foolishly appear attractive as a coping mechanism. Even experimentation with these harder drugs can derail a teen’s future.”

A first-of-its-kind national survey recently found high levels of stress, depression and fear due to daily challenges among LGBTQ-identifying youth.

The Human Rights Campaign’s 2017 LGBTQ Teen Survey highlighted a number of problem areas for LGBTQ youth, including at home, where two-thirds have heard a family member make anti-LGBTQ comments, and in school, where only a quarter of youth feeling safe.

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