There is substantial evidence, from Scotland and internationally, that the LGBTQI+ community experience major health inequalities around alcohol and drug use.

Whilst a majority of LGBTQI+ people do not use alcohol in a harmful way, they are more likely to drink alcohol and to drink at harmful levels than the rest of the population for a variety of understandable reasons.

Why are LGBTQI people more likely to experience alcohol harm?

LGBTQI+ people face challenges and circumstances that cisgender and straight people don’t necessarily have to contend with. This can impact on the way some LGBTQI+ people use alcohol and drugs.

For example, LGBTQI+ people might face issues such as:

  • Historic and ongoing inequality and discrimination (homophobia, biphobia or transphobia)
  • Harassment, bullying or violence on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation
  • Rejection by family and friends
  • Having to hide one’s sexual orientation or gender identity from others (including from family)
  • Misplaced shame about one’s gender identity or sexual orientation brought on by homophobia/biphobia/transphobia (shame-based trauma)
  • Limited visibility of alcohol and drug free LGBTQI+ spaces or events
  • Experiencing multiple intersecting forms of disadvantage or oppression (ie: experiencing homophobia/biphobia/transphobia and also experiencing racism, ableism, classism, sexism, etc).

Some of the above reasons are also why LGBTQI+ people experience barriers when accessing support and treatment for their alcohol use, as evidenced by a recent study by Glasgow Caledonian University.

Kinder Stronger Better

In 2019, Glasgow Council on Alcohol, working alongside colleagues at the Scottish Drugs Forum and Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol and Drugs, came together to form a partnership aimed at tackling the health inequalities experienced by the LGBTQI+ community. Alcohol Focus Scotland are proud to be members of this partnership.

This led to the Kinder Stronger Better project in 2020, which resulted in the creation of a one stop shop website with a huge array of information, resources, both for LGBTQI+ people experiencing alcohol and drug harm, and for professionals and services to learn more about LGBTQI+ health inequalities on alcohol and drugs.

Support

If you are an LGBTQI+ person who is worried about your own or someone else’s alcohol use, the website provides a section on where to find support. Please note that the site is Glasgow focused but, does provide links to national organisations who will also be able to offer you advice or signpost to local LGBTQI+ services.

Work for an alcohol service?

e-Learning: LGBTQI Substance Use – an introduction

In 2022, the Scottish Drugs Forum, supported by Glasgow Council on Alcohol and the wider Kinder Stronger Better partnership, launched a new e-Learning course for alcohol and drug services.

This introductory e-learning course is aimed at people working in substance use and LGBTQI+ services. The course aims to increase knowledge and awareness of how LGBTQI+ people use substances, the health inequalities they experience, and the specific barriers they encounter when trying to get support. By the end of this course, participants will know how to make their services more inclusive.  

If you work for an alcohol service and want to make your service more LGBTQI+ inclusive – you may find it useful to view the LGBTQI Service Inclusivity Guide on the Kinder Stronger Better website.

You may also wish to go through the process of completing the LGBT Youth Scotland Charter Award scheme.

Alcohol marketing and the LGBTQI+ community

A recent scoping review by Glasgow Caledonian University exposed a complex web of alcohol marketing targeting LGBTQI+ people on multiple fronts, with Big Alcohol positioning itself as an LGBTQI+ ally, 'forging public facing personae of solidarity and acceptance.' This is also known as 'Pinkwashing' - where companies attempt to launder their reputations by seemingly celebrating or even supporting the LGBTQI+ community, whilst at the same time producing products that disproportionately harm the community.

We want to see greater restrictions on alcohol marketing to help protect vulnerable groups, including the LGBTQI+ community, people in recovery, and children and young people.

The figures

£5-10 billion
Amount that alcohol use costs Scotland per year
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