LGBTQ+ community faces major barriers in accessing alcohol services, study finds

People from the LGBTQ+ community are more likely to have problems with alcohol than others, but experience major barriers in accessing alcohol services, according to new research.
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The Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) study on LGBTQ+ people’s experiences of alcohol services investigated the views of both service users and providers.

Respondents told of their concerns that excessive drinking was normalised among LGBTQ+ people and that there was a lack of alcohol-free spaces for that community in Scotland.

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They also identified specific barriers to accessing alcohol services, including concerns about judgment and discrimination, services not being perceived as LGBTQ+ friendly, and a lack of discussion of sexuality and gender from service providers.

LGBTQ+ people could benefit from having more alcohol-free spaces to meet, campaigners say.LGBTQ+ people could benefit from having more alcohol-free spaces to meet, campaigners say.
LGBTQ+ people could benefit from having more alcohol-free spaces to meet, campaigners say.

Experts are now calling for action to overcome these barriers and inequalities

Professor Carol Emslie, who led the study, said: “We know that LGBTQ+ communities are at higher risk of alcohol-related harm, so it is important to learn about their experiences of alcohol services in Scotland.

“Our respondents reported their drinking was often a response to discrimination, family rejection or hiding their LGBTQ+ identity, but that service providers rarely explored how sexuality or gender identity might impact on alcohol use.

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“Our report recommends that all staff working in alcohol services should receive LGBTQ+ diversity training and services should check they are reaching the LGBTQ+ community, and tailoring their services appropriately.

“At a broader level, alcohol-free spaces for LGBTQ+ people where drinking heavily is not the norm, and increased public acceptance of LGBTQ+ issues would reduce alcohol harm in this community.”

The study was funded by Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP).

David Barbour, of the Glasgow LGBTQI Substance Use Partnership, said: “Disproportionate numbers of LGBT+ people find themselves using alcohol to self-medicate for higher levels of stress, anxiety and depression, often caused by past or ongoing experiences of homo/bi/transphobia."

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Elinor Jayne, SHAAP director, said that given the disproportionate alcohol harms experienced by the LGBTQ+ community, it is “imperative” that the needs of LGBTQ+ people are explicitly addressed in the upcoming Scottish Government Alcohol Treatment Guidance, “in order to tackle these inequalities and reduce the stigma experienced by LGBTQ+ individuals in accessing alcohol treatment services”.

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