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Substance Abuse in the Trans Community

Living life as part of the transgender community has its challenges. When a person also deals with addiction to drugs or alcohol, it gets even more complicated. Members of this community often have higher rates of addiction, making transgender and substance abuse a topic that needs to be addressed so that treatment options are available to those who need them. 

Understanding What Transgender Means

Approximately 1.4 million people in the U.S. identify as transgender. This means the gender they identify with or express themselves as does not match the gender they were assigned at birth. People who do feel their assigned birth matches how they identify are referred to as “cisgender”. Transgender people define their genders and sexual orientations according to what matches how they feel, without relying on stereotypically-accepted ideas of what a specific gender should look like. Some trans people choose to have different medical procedures, such as hormone-replacement therapy or body-altering surgery, while others opt not to take those steps. 

Transgender and Substance Abuse Often Tie Into Acceptance 

Someone who identifies as a member of the transgender community may have known how they feel for years before they officially come out. Others feel more comfortable being open about who they are at an earlier age. Either way, dealing with accepting being trans can be challenging for a few different reasons:


We all want to love and accept ourselves and are sensitive to any differences we perceive that we fear might set us apart from others. This is especially true during puberty when adolescents begin to experience new feelings and understand their place in the world in terms of sexual preference and how they identify in terms of gender. Feeling shame and that they may not easily assimilate into their peer groups can cause many young people to begin abusing drugs or alcohol in reaction to trying to accept themselves as transgendered. 

Acceptance From Loved Ones

Sometimes family members and friends end up having negative reactions to the news that someone they love is transgender. When parents, siblings, other family members, and friends reject a young person based on their being trans, it can be traumatic. This can result in the individual turning to drug and alcohol abuse to cope with the ostracization. 

Acceptance Within the Community

Even if a person and their loved ones learn to accept their identity as trans, members of the community may not be so understanding. Discrimination against members of the LGBTQ+ community sometimes exists in employment, schooling, housing, social groups, and cliques. A person feeling that discrimination may end up getting lost in the world of substance abuse in order to appease the feelings of isolation. 

Transgender and Substance Abuse Facts Are Staggering 

In a study done In 2017, transgender people experienced polysubstance abuse at a rate of four times higher than that of others.  Polysubstance abuse is a substance use disorder that entails a person using or abusing at least three kinds of substances. While only about 9% of the general population deals with substance abuse, between 20-30% of transgender and gay people end up abusing drugs or alcohol. This number is 23 percentage points greater than what cisgender people reported experiencing.

Those in the transgender community who report having been discriminated against based on their identity are 3.59 times more likely to binge drink. While about 10% of cisgender individuals reported using drugs other than alcohol at least twice per month, 25% of transgender individuals used drugs in the same time period. 

Transgender Individuals Suffer Higher Rates of Mental Health Issues

Despite being a minority group, transgender people typically experience mental illness at much higher rates than those who do not identify as transgender. Three out of five transgender people reported that on at least one day per month, they experience poor mental health. 

Transgender people also have more than twice the rate of chronic depression as their counterparts have. In addition, trans adults develop more than twice the number of depressive disorders compared to others.  

Transgender and Substance Abuse Treatment

Society has made great strides in accepting members of the trans community, including acceptance from those in the medical and addiction treatment community. Many treatment programs, including residential, outpatient, and sober living houses, offer trans-friendly services that assist in treating drug and alcohol addiction. They often offer help learning to treat and manage any accompanying mental illnesses, such as depression, anxiety, and trauma.

When a transgender person or their loved one begins searching for addiction treatment, they should ask any individual or treatment center they contact if they are accepting of trans individuals. Knowing they will begin treatment in a community of professionals who fully accept them can ease some of their worries. Recovery is all about patients learning not to hide and address their concerns, and this includes any residual difficulties with becoming a proud member of the transgender community.

Substance Abuse Treatment in Los Angeles

Admitting you need help getting treatment for a substance use disorder isn’t easy but we can help. Our sober living homes for young adults offer gender-specific housing that provides a safe, comfortable environment for members from the trans community and others to work on staying sober. Our caring staff oversees residents who benefit from multiple therapy options that include treatment for substance use disorders and mental illness. 

Contact Riviera Recovery in Los Angeles today and let our pet-friendly community be the place to start your sober life. Call us now at 855-207-9708.

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