Substances, support and seeking help

Publish Date: 27/11/2013

Have you ever accessed support for a drug or alcohol problem? Maybe you have thought about it, but never got so far as making that contact? Perhaps you feel that you are able to manage it yourself, without any support?

The Part of the Picture research project has been exploring lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) people’s use of alcohol and drugs over the last five years, using an online survey, speaking to people at Pride events across the country, and conducting face to face interviews (the published reports can be read here www.lgf.org.uk/potp).

So far, the data we’ve collected show these key findings:

·         Across all age groups LGB people are much more likely to use drugs compared to the general population

·         LGB people are significantly more likely to binge drink compared to the general population

·         Substance dependency is more common among LGB people

·         Those scoring as substance dependent are more likely to seek help, although from informal sources rather than specialist services

·         A third of respondents who scored as substance dependent would not seek information, advice or treatment, even if they were worried about their drug or alcohol use.

The reasons people gave for not seeking information, advice or treatment, even if they were worried about their drug or alcohol use, are often complex and overlap. However, the three most common reasons given were:

·         worry, shame, fear or embarrassment;

·         fears about confidentiality; and

·         wanting to deal with the problem on their own.

Fears around confidentiality and feelings of shame and embarrassment may prevent some people from seeking help, and may prevent those who do seek help from making use of mainstream or specialist substance use services.

Our most recent report presents three case studies, based on people’s lived experience, which give insight into the life stories of the LGB people depicted and the relationship they have with drugs or alcohol. Although two of these recognised that they had had issues with drugs or alcohol at some point in their lives, neither had considered accessing a form of support, information or advice regarding their use.

‘Kate’ described how she felt her substance use was under control when other areas of her life were too:

“as long as I made sure I did really well then I didn’t have a problem doing anything else that I wanted to do”

But she also acknowledged that substances have been a problem for her in the past:

“it doesn’t affect me anymore, maybe it did in the past but… I don’t know”

‘Robert’ recognised that his substance use is something which has more negative impacts on his life than positive impacts these days, but he lacks motivation to change this:

“I suppose I’ve got to a point where I don’t particularly enjoy life and don’t have any great reason to want it to go on for a long time”

Using these findings as a starting point, we want to find out what LGB people’s experiences are of accessing help, advice or support for their drug and/or alcohol use. This could include help, advice or support from a range of either formal or informal sources, such as from substance use services, as well as the internet, friends and family, their doctor, a telephone helpline, self-help books etc.

Let us know your thoughts and experiences by commenting on this page, using the comments box below. All comments submitted in this way will be used as part of the research, and may be quoted in future research reports. We will ensure that any comments used are anonymised and kept confidential.

Alternatively, you can take part in an interview with our research team, either over the over the phone or face to face. As a thank you we are offering participants a £20 high street voucher as well as reasonable travel expenses (where necessary) for taking part. Please see www.lgf.org.uk/potp for more information.