LGBT Youth Begin Abusing Prescription Drugs Earlier Than Others

LGBT status is an important factor when it comes to early initiation into prescription drug misuse and abuse, according to a study published in the journal Addictive Behaviors. The results of the study suggest that LBGT youth who misuse or abuse prescription medications are more likely to do so earlier than non-LGBT youth who also misuse or abuse their drugs. The study also found that a childhood history of neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse or emotional abuse affected the average age at which LGBT youth began to misuse or abuse prescription medications. Previous studies have found that LGBT youth are more likely to begin using tobacco, alcohol and illicit drugs earlier than their non-LGBT counterparts, and these researchers hypothesized that the results would be similar for prescription drugs. The study looked at a group of 596 youth aged 16 to 25 living in Los Angeles and New York City. All of the youths who participated in the study reported current abuse of prescription drugs, and many were abusing more than one type of drug (polydrug users). The purpose of the study was to determine how individual and family factors such as sexual and gender identity, minority status and childhood abuse contributed to the start of prescription drug misuse and abuse.

Early Initiation, Child Abuse More Common Among LGBT Youth

The results suggested that adolescents who identify as LGBT begin misusing prescription drugs earlier than non-LGBT youth. The researchers also found that a childhood history of abuse further lowered the average age of initiation into prescription drug abuse for young adults in the study who identified as LGBT. The LGBT youth in this study were significantly more likely to report a history of abuse or neglect during childhood, including sexual abuse, physical abuse and emotional abuse. The researchers hypothesized that LGBT status would affect the impact of childhood abuse on the risk of prescription drug misuse, and this hypothesis was confirmed by the results. LGBT youth who suffered emotional abuse began to misuse tranquilizers much earlier than the non-LGBT youth in the study who also suffered emotional abuse. LGBT youth who suffered physical abuse showed earlier initiation into stimulant misuse than their non-LGBT counterparts. Sexual abuse was a strong predictor of early tranquilizer misuse in both LGBT and non-LGBT youth, although the average age of initiation for LGBT youth was slightly lower.

More Likely to Suffer From Mental Illness, Receive Prescriptions

While the researchers concluded that LGBT status does put youth at higher risk for prescription drug abuse, they also reported that the most significant factor moderating youth prescription drug misuse was availability. Previous studies have also found that the availability of prescription medications is a critical predictor of abuse. However, this finding does not detract from concerns about the risks for LGBT youth, since these young people are also more likely to struggle with mental illness and to have drug prescriptions. Overall, the results of this study show that LGBT youth are at moderately higher risk for earlier initiation of prescription drug misuse and abuse. This means they are in higher need of treatment for prescription drug abuse. However, they are also at notably higher risk for other factors that are predictors of early prescription drug abuse, including a history of abuse during childhood and easy access to prescription drugs. The researchers suggest that education programs for LGBT youth should be adjusted to reflect the fact that early initiation is a higher risk among these individuals.

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