Drug use 'seven times higher' among gays

Two-year survey uncovers 'problematic substance abuse' among LGBT community

Whether it is a coping mechanism in the face of homophobia or just hectic partying is not clear, but new figures suggest that gay people are seven times more likely to take illegal drugs than the general population, with one in five of those surveyed showing signs of dependency on drugs or alcohol.

More than a third of gay, lesbian and bisexual people took at least one illegal drug in the last month, according to the largest study of its kind. Whether drug use is a psychological crutch, a way of integrating into the "scene" or perhaps both, that figure compares to 5 per cent of the wider population who admitted using a drug in the last month in the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW).

Campaigners yesterday described the findings as a "wake-up call", while specialists warned that gay people risk being "excluded" from traditional drug treatment services. The report, conducted by the Lesbian and Gay Foundation (LGF) and the University of Central Lancashire, who sampled more than 4,000 people over two years, warns that there is "significant problematic substance use among lesbian, gay and bisexual people" and a risk of "substantial hidden harm".

The most widely used substances among those surveyed were party drugs such as cannabis and poppers, followed by powder cocaine, ecstasy, ketamine and amphetamines. They were 10 times more likely to have used cocaine in the last month than the wider population, and 13 times more likely to have used ketamine. Heroin use was comparable among both populations, but the use of crack cocaine was again higher among the gay community.

David Stuart, education, training and outreach manager at London Friend, the UK's only targeted LGBT drug and alcohol service, said feelings of "rejection" and "fear" as well as "shame around sex" could be factors leading to substance abuse. He added that drug services "aren't equipped" to deal with the shifting drug trends, noting that "while government funding is linked to crime prevention and drugs like crack and heroin, less than 2 per cent of lesbian, gay and bisexual people use these drugs."

But Kitty Richardson, 25, who runs the Most Cake, a blog for lesbians in London, said: "the scene has a lot to answer for". She added: "People are very quick to label gay people as troubled, or inherently needing those crutches, but all our methods of socialising revolve around drink or drugs. A by-product of that is people can become dependent."

The research, carried out at Pride events and through online and postal surveys, canvassed a younger age profile than the CSEW, but LGF's policy and research co-ordinator, Heather Williams, called the figures "striking". She added: "This should be a wake-up call for people working with the community and for policy makers commissioning services at a local and national level."

While drug use in the general population tends to decrease with age, the report found almost as many lesbian, gay and bisexual 36- to 40-year-olds were taking drugs as their younger counterparts.

'I was bullied quite badly, and started smoking cannabis at 14'

Sarah Graham, 43, is a drug counsellor, living in London. She is also a recovering cocaine user, who at one point was spending £600 a week on drugs and alcohol. The former TV director says the homophobic bullying she experienced at school was a factor in her addiction, which nearly killed her.

"I was bullied on a daily basis; it got quite bad, in terms of physical assaults. I didn't feel comfortable being myself and at 14, when I wasn't even out, I started smoking cannabis at the end of the playing fields to numb myself to the reality of day-to-day existence. This led me to taking more serious drugs, like speed and acid, then cocaine.

"A lesbian, gay or bisexual person presenting in treatment can have specific traumas, in which workers need to be trained."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese and DiCaprio, at an awards show in 2010
filmsDe Niro, DiCaprio and Pitt to star
News
i100
News
In this photo illustration a school student eats a hamburger as part of his lunch which was brought from a fast food shop near his school, on October 5, 2005 in London, England. The British government has announced plans to remove junk food from school lunches. From September 2006, food that is high in fat, sugar or salt will be banned from meals and removed from vending machines in schools across England. The move comes in response to a campaign by celebrity TV chef Jamie Oliver to improve school meals.
science
Sport
England captain Wayne Rooney during training
FOOTBALLNew captain vows side will deliver against Norway for small crowd
Life and Style
Red or dead: An actor portrays Hungarian countess Elizabeth Báthory, rumoured to have bathed in blood to keep youthful
health
News
peopleJustin Bieber charged with assault and dangerous driving after crashing quad bike into a minivan
News
peopleHis band Survivor was due to resume touring this month
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
Sport
Radamel Falcao poses with his United shirt
FOOTBALLRadamel Falcao's journey from teenage debutant in Colombia to Manchester United's star signing
Life and Style
fashionAngelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Teaching Assistant

    Negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Randstad Education require a Drama speci...

    Science Teacher

    £120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Science Teacher - Full Time - Lo...

    Maths Teacher

    Negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Randstad Education is looking for a Seco...

    General Cover Teacher

    £120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Randstad Education are looking f...

    Day In a Page

    Chief inspector of GPs: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

    Steve Field: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

    The man charged with inspecting doctors explains why he may not be welcome in every surgery
    Stolen youth: Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing

    Stolen youth

    Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing
    Bob Willoughby: Hollywood's first behind the scenes photographer

    Bob Willoughby: The reel deal

    He was the photographer who brought documentary photojournalism to Hollywood, changing the way film stars would be portrayed for ever
    Hollywood heavyweights produce world's most expensive corporate video - for Macau casino

    Hollywood heavyweights produce world's most expensive corporate video - for Macau casino

    Scorsese in the director's chair with De Niro, DiCaprio and Pitt to star
    Angelina Jolie's wedding dress: made by Versace, designed by her children

    Made by Versace, designed by her children

    Angelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
    Anyone for pulled chicken?

    Pulling chicks

    Pulled pork has gone from being a US barbecue secret to a regular on supermarket shelves. Now KFC is trying to tempt us with a chicken version
    9 best steam generator irons

    9 best steam generator irons

    To get through your ironing as swiftly as possible, invest in one of these efficient gadgets
    England v Norway: Wayne Rooney admits England must ‘put on a show’ to regain faith

    Rooney admits England must ‘put on a show’ to regain faith

    New captain vows side will deliver for small Wembley crowd
    ‘We knew he was something special:’ Radamel Falcao's journey from teenage debutant to Manchester United's star signing

    ‘We knew he was something special’

    Radamel Falcao's journey from teenage debutant to Manchester United's star signing
    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

    US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
    Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
    Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York