My experiences were not totally unique. SAMHSA recently released the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health and found that sexual minority adults — those who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual — have a higher prevalence of substance use and mental illness than adults who identify as heterosexual.
Specifically, the survey found that:
- Sexual minority adults were more likely to have participated in binge drinking in the past month than adults in the sexual majority —36.1 percent versus 26.7 percent
- Sexual minority adults were more than twice as likely to have used an illicit drug in the past year as other adults —39.1 percent versus 17.1 percent.
- Females in sexual minority groups were more likely (41.1 percent) than males in sexual minority groups (36.3 percent) to have used illicit drugs in the past year.
- Sexual minority adults were more than twice as likely to have experienced any mental illness in the past year —37.4 percent versus 17.1 percent for adults in the sexual majority.
- Sexual minority adults were more than three times as likely to have experienced serious mental illness in the past year —13.1 percent versus 3.6 percent for adults in the sexual majority.
While these rates raise many questions and concerns, the report does contain some good news. The findings show that lesbian, gay, and bisexual adults are more likely to seek help and treatment for both substance use disorders and mental illness. This presents a positive foundation for SAMHSA to build upon as we work to promote effective treatment – as well as prevention and recovery – to help lesbian, gay, bisexual, and, yes, transgender individuals, families, and communities achieve wellness.
The report, Sexual Orientation and Estimates of Adult Substance Use and Mental Health: Results from the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health is available at http://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUH-SexualOrientation-2015/NSDUH-SexualOrientation-2015/NSDUH-SexualOrientation-2015.htm.