Supporting LGBTQ Teens During Addiction Treatment

LGBTQ teens struggle with more issues than other teens, which is what makes a specialized LGBTQ addiction treatment center so valuable. In addition to coping with a substance abuse problem and working hard to get healthy, LGBTQ teens in addiction treatment struggle with their sexual identities as well as all the natural struggles that come along with puberty and adolescence. If you know a teen who is participating in an LGBTQ addiction treatment program, there are several things you can do to show your support during this challenging time.

Maintain an Open Channel of Communication

According to recent surveys, LGBTQ teens are more likely to report lower levels of happiness and less connection to supportive adults than non-LGBTQ teens. LGBTQ teens also report that they feel like they can’t be honest about themselves with people in real life and that they feel more comfortable opening up online. This can result in social isolation and a lack of a support system. To make matters worse, LGBTQ teens are twice as likely as non-LGBTQ teens to experiment with drugs and alcohol. Parents, teachers, mentors and family members can show their support for the LGBTQ teen in their lives by maintaining an open channel of communication. Let the teen in your life know that you are always available to talk about anything, even topics that may seem uncomfortable like sex and drugs. Let your teen know that you support them, care about them and will never judge them for being a unique, special individual.

Know the Warning Signs

While there are many direct ways to support the LGBTQ teen in your life, you can also support your LGBTQ teen by being vigilant for any warning signs that he or she needs help. It’s difficult for members of the LGBTQ community to ask for help in general due to the perpetual feeling of being misunderstood, which can lead to social isolation and a habit of keeping problems bottled up. Teens are at even greater risk of isolating themselves from those in a position to help. If you are concerned that an LGBTQ teen may be struggling with substance abuse or relapse, keep an eye out for any of the following warning signs:

  • Abandoning or avoiding specific friends or hobbies
  • Bloodshot eyes or abnormally large or small pupils
  • Engaging in secretive or suspicious behavior
  • Paying less attention to personal hygiene than normal
  • Poor coordination, tremors or slurred speech
  • Severe changes in personality or attitude
  • Significant appetite changes, either increases or decreases
  • Significant changes in sleep patterns
  • Significant and unexpected weight loss or weight gain
  • Sudden changes in friends, favorite places to hangout, tastes or hobbies
  • Sudden mood swings or displays of increased irritability or anger
  • Unusual increases in energy
  • Unusual tiredness, sluggishness or lack of energy

Destroy the “What’s Wrong With Me?” Assumption

Many teens are afraid to talk about their substance abuse problems with adults because they assume there is something wrong with them and that they will be a disappointment. Let your teen know that abusing substances often leads to addiction. Anyone can become addicted to drugs, so there is nothing innately wrong with your teen. Rather than focusing on blame, partner with your teen in a supportive way to work toward a solution together. Only one-third of LGBTQ teens say that they get positive messages and attitudes about their LGBTQ identity at home. A lack of support can make LGBTQ teens feel like they need to escape reality, isolate themselves, and hide important parts of their personality with drugs or alcohol. Show your support for your LGBTQ teen and let them know that there is someone who cares about their happiness and health. Sources Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016). Gay and Bisexual Men’s Health: Substance Use. Human Rights Campaign. (n.d.). Growing up LGBT in America: HRC Youth Survey Report Key Findings. Indian Health Service. (n.d.). Warning Signs of Drug Abuse and Addiction. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016). What to Do if Your Teen or Young Adult Has a Problem with Drugs.

Scroll to Top