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How your sexual orientation may influence extent of substance use

If you are lesbian, gay or bisexual, you may be at greater risk of substance abuse, in the form of marijuana, nicotine and alcohol, says new research by Oregon State University.

sex and relationships Updated: Sep 14, 2018 15:07 IST
Asian News International
Substance abuse,Weed,Drugs
Recent research has shown that sexual minority youth reported nearly three times more substance use than heterosexual youth.(Unsplash)

Lesbian, gay or bisexual youth, according to a study, are at an increased risk of using multiple substances — such as alcohol, nicotine and marijuana. The Oregon State University research added that these youth are also at higher risk of polysubstance use, meaning they are more likely to use more than one substance than their heterosexual peers.

“This data shows definitively that polysubstance use is an issue among many youth who identify as sexual minorities, meaning they are facing added health risks,” said Sarah Dermody. “But there are also differences among the subgroups of youth who identify as sexual minorities, suggesting we need to look beyond the averages to understand what factors may be influencing substance use in this population.”

Sexual minority is an umbrella term for those who identify with any sexual identity other than heterosexual or who report same-sex attraction or behaviour. For the purpose of the study, the researchers focused on those youth who identified as lesbian, gay or bisexual.

Dermody studies risky behaviours, such as alcohol and nicotine use, with the goal of better understanding factors that contribute to the substance use and how best to intervene when the use is problematic. Among youth, alcohol, marijuana and nicotine are the three most commonly used drugs. That is a concern because youth who use those substances are at risk of negative health and social outcomes, including addiction and poor cognitive, social and academic function.

Recent research has shown that sexual minority youth reported nearly three times more substance use than heterosexual youth. “The disparity may be due in part to stress from discrimination, violence and victimisation rooted in their sexual minority status,” Dermody said.

The goal of the new study was to better understand the risks associated with polysubstance use, or the use of three or more types of drugs, among sexual minority youth. It is an area of research that is largely unexamined, Dermody said.

“The experiences of youth who identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual are underreported in research, generally,” she said. “In research we tend to focus on the averages. In this study, we’re trying to better understand the intersectionality of sexual orientation, race and gender with substance use. Are some sexual minority youth at more risk than others for substance use?”

The data showed that there is a sizeable number of youth, both heterosexual and sexual minority, who don’t use any substance at all, Dermody said.

But among those who do, she found that those identified as sexual minority youth were at higher risk of using each type of drug — alcohol, marijuana and cigarettes — compared to heterosexual youth. They are also at higher risk of polysubstance abuse overall. The study has been published in the Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

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First Published: Sep 14, 2018 15:06 IST