BOSTON — LGB teens are at least twice as likely as their straight peers to use illegal drugs like cocaine, ecstasy, heroin and methamphetamines, a U.S. study suggests, according to a Reuters article.
Previous research suggests that stressors related to being closeted or coming out and being rejected by family or friends could contribute to an increased risk of substance use among sexual minority teens, senior study author John Ayers of San Diego State University in California told Reuters Health. Those unsure of their sexual orientation were also included in the study.
For the new study, researchers looked at data from roughly 14,703 high school students who had been surveyed about their lifetime and prior-month use of 15 different substances, including illegal drugs as well as tobacco, alcohol and prescription drugs that weren’t given to them by physicians, Reuters reports.
Overall, LGB teens were 12 percent more likely than other teens to report any substance use in their lifetimes and 27 percent more likely to report substance use in the previous month, the study found.
LGB youth were more than three times more likely to try heroin or methamphetamines at least once, and more than twice as likely to try ecstasy or cocaine, the study also found, according to Reuters.
Stressors faced by LGB teens, such as stigma and isolation, “may make drugs foolishly appear attractive as a coping mechanism,” Ayers told Reuters by email. “Even experimentation with these harder drugs can derail a teen’s future.”
The vast majority of teens didn’t use illegal drugs, regardless of sexual orientation, researchers report in the American Journal of Public Health.
For example, 6.6 percent of LBG teens had used heroin in their lifetimes, compared with 1.3 percent of straight youth. And, 8.6 percent of LGB adolescents had used methamphetamines compared with 2.1 percent of other teens, Reuters reports. Marijuana was more common, used at some point by half of LGB youth and almost 38 percent of other teens.
Teen drinking and smoking were even more common. Almost 72 percent of LGB teens had tried alcohol in their lifetimes, as had 63 percent of straight youth. With cigarettes, 47 percent of LGB youth said they had smoked at least once, as did 31 percent of straight teens, Reuters reports.
Just over 11 percent of adolescents in the study identified as a sexual minority: 2 percent were lesbian or gay, 6 percent were bisexual; 3.2 percent identified as questioning, Reuters reports.
Smaller studies, however, have suggested that sexual minority youth are at greater risk for alcohol and other drug use, “and this large national study strengthens this understanding,” said Kimberly O’Brien, a researcher at Boston Children’s Hospital and Education Development Center and a psychiatry instructor at Harvard Medical School, according to the Reuters article.