Young people who identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual are at an increased risk of using substances such as alcohol, nicotine, and marijuana, a study warns.
They are also at higher risk of polysubstance use, meaning they are more likely to use more than one substance than their heterosexual peers, according to a study published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.
“This data shows definitively that polysubstance use is an issue among many youths who identify as sexual minorities, meaning they are facing added health risks,” said Sarah Dermody, an assistant professor at Oregon State University in the US.
“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,” said Dermody.
The sexual minority is an umbrella term for those who identify with any sexual identity other than heterosexual or who report same-sex attraction or behavior.
For the purposes of the study, the researchers focused on those youth who identified as lesbian, gay or bisexual.
Dermody studies risky behaviors such as alcohol and nicotine use with the goal of better understanding factors that contribute to the substances’ 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 victimization rooted in their sexual minority status, Dermody said.
The goal of 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.
Researchers analyzed results from a 2015 survey of over 15,000 youth. The data showed that there is a sizeable number of youth, both heterosexual and sexual minority, who don’t use any substances at all, Dermody said.
However, 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.
Within the sexual minority youth population, some groups were at more risk than others for using one, two or all three substances.
For example, bisexual youth faced the largest increase in the risk of polysubstance abuse as well as combinations of two substances, while those who identified as lesbian or gay were only at higher risk for some combinations.
“The findings suggest that it may be good practice for health care providers who serve these youth to do assessments for substance use as part of regular health screenings,” Dermody said.
(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)
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