LGBQ teens more likely than peers to use dangerous drugs

July 13, 2018, San Diego State University

Lesbian, gay, bisexual or questioning (LGBQ) teens are at substantially higher risk of substance use than their heterosexual peers, according to a new study led by San Diego State University researchers and published in the American Journal of Public Health.

As part of the most recent National Youth Risk Behavior Survey—the largest national survey on adolescent health—15,624 were asked about their use of 15 substances, including alcohol, drugs, and tobacco. The survey also included questions about sexual identity, including whether teens identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or questioning.

The data showed LGBQ teens were more likely to have ever used 14 of the 15 substances studied, including alcohol, cigarettes, cigars, cocaine, ecstasy, electronic vapor ("vaping"), hallucinogens, heroin, inhalants, marijuana, methamphetamine, prescription drugs (without physician direction), steroids, and synthetic marijuana.

LGBQ teens also were at greater risk for having used harder drugs. For instance, LGBQ teens were more likely than heterosexual teens to ever use heroin (6.6 versus 1.3 percent), hallucinogens (12.3 versus 5.5 percent), ecstasy (10.8 versus 4.1 percent), cocaine (11.0 versus 4.2 percent), methamphetamines (8.6 versus 2.1 percent) and (26.2 versus 15.5 percent).

The survey included questions gauging potential ongoing use for some by asking about their use during the past 30 days. Compared to their , LGBQ teens faced an elevated risk for going use of alcohol, cigarettes, cigars, vaping, and marijuana.

Because LGBQ and non-LGBQ teens differ in more ways than just sexual identity, the research team used statistical models to adjust for differences in age, sex, race, academic grades, and English proficiency when further comparing substance-use risks. Even after adjusting for these factors, LGBQ teens were still at substantially higher risk for substance use.

"There have been some indications that LGBQ teens face increased substance use risks, but our study shows for the first time that the problem goes far beyond alcohol and tobacco, including the hardest most dangerous drugs," said SDSU School of Public Health associate research professor and study coauthor John W. Ayers.

The team noted these new data should not be used to judge LGBQ teens.

"Our findings highlight the need for accepting LGBQ teens, as stigma may be playing a role in elevating their substance use risk or prevent those from needing help to speak up," said coauthor Laramie Smith, a LGBQ health researcher at the University of California, San Diego.

The results represent a call to action for academic, community and government leaders to begin addressing the LGBQ substance use crisis, added coauthor Theodore L. Caputi, a George J. Mitchell Scholar at University College Cork and the study's first author. "National health, political, and social leaders must speak up and begin work on a rapid, national strategy to combat teen substance use.

The team also encouraged parents, teachers, caretakers, and advocates to be vigilant, added coauthor Steffanie Strathdee of UC San Diego. "If teens show signs of substance use risk, they should seek supportive help from professionals."

The study identifies a serious problem, noted Ayers, but "fortunately decades of science and experience can be leveraged to address LGBQ 's substance use risk. Now is the time to act."

Explore further: LGBQ adolescents at much greater risk of suicide than heterosexual counterparts

More information: Theodore L. Caputi et al, Substance Use Among Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Questioning Adolescents in the United States, 2015, American Journal of Public Health (2018). DOI: 10.2105/AJPH.2018.304446

Related Stories

LGBQ adolescents at much greater risk of suicide than heterosexual counterparts

December 19, 2017
Adolescents who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or questioning are much more likely to consider, plan or attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers, according to research from the University of Pennsylvania, the University ...

Could vaping lead teens to pot smoking?

April 23, 2018
(HealthDay)—Teens who use e-cigarettes may be more likely to try marijuana in the future, especially if they start vaping at a younger age, a new study shows.

Hispanic teens more likely to abuse drugs, survey finds

August 20, 2013
(HealthDay)—Hispanic teens are more likely to abuse illegal and legal drugs than their black or white peers, a new report finds.

LGBQ* women's sexual desire particularly impacted by social and cultural pressures

December 6, 2017
Women's sexual desire is influenced by a host of factors, but one factor is often left out by researchers and clinicians. University of Kentucky researchers homed in on that missing piece—the influence of social and cultural ...

Recommended for you

India launches 'Modicare', world's biggest health scheme

September 23, 2018
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday launched the world's biggest health insurance scheme, promising free coverage for half a billion of India's poorest citizens ahead of national elections next year.

Patient-centered visual aid helps physicians discuss risks, treatments with parents

September 21, 2018
A series of illustrations and charts designed as decision aids for parents of children with minor head injuries helped them communicate with emergency medicine physicians and make informed decisions about their child's care, ...

Alcohol responsible for one in 20 deaths worldwide: WHO

September 21, 2018
Alcohol kills three million people worldwide each year—more than AIDS, violence and road accidents combined, the World Health Organization said Friday, adding that men are particularly at risk.

Smart pills dumb down medical care, experts warn

September 21, 2018
Enthusiasm for an emerging digital health tool, the smart pill, is on the rise but researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have published a paper in the American Journal of Bioethics that cautions health care ...

Crunched for time? High-intensity exercise = same cell benefits in fewer minutes

September 20, 2018
A few minutes of high-intensity interval or sprinting exercise may be as effective as much longer exercise sessions in spurring beneficial improvements in mitochondrial function, according to new research. The small study ...

China's doctor shortage prompts rush for AI health care

September 20, 2018
Qu Jianguo, 64, had a futuristic medical visit in Shanghai as he put his wrist through an automated pulse-taking machine and received the result within two minutes on a mobile phone—without a doctor present.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.