Since 1999, American society has observed Pride Month, a presidential declaration that started during the administration of former United States President Bill Clinton. This was set to coincide with similar periods of awareness held by many other countries that seek to recognize and respect the rights and well-being of the LGBTQ+ community. While equality remains a challenge, Pride Month also has an increasing focus on addressing issues such as mental health and substance abuse, which in this community tend to be more prevalent than most people realize.

Understanding mental illness begins with accepting certain realities. In the war veteran community, for example, we know that the horrors of combat are intrinsically tied to a post-traumatic stress disorder, which often goes hand in hand with substance abuse; this is an undeniable reality that must be accepted to formulate an adequate treatment plan. In the LGBTQ+ community, we must accept the unfortunate reality that many social stigmas remain, which in turn result in stress, anxiety, depression, and other negative emotions that many individuals opt to treat with alcohol and other substances.

According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, people who identify as LGBTQ+ are more likely to suffer from addiction issues that stem from their attempts to cope with depression. A 2012 survey conducted by law enforcement and social work agencies in England revealed that substance abuse was more prevalent in the LGBTQ+ community when compared to the population that identifies as heterosexual, particularly concerning cocaine, methamphetamine, and other stimulants associated with the “party lifestyle.”

As part of our efforts in understanding mental illness, we must realize that there is a difference between recreational use and the kind of substance abuse that is mistakenly undertaken as a self-medicating strategy to cope with the aforementioned social stigmas. When this is the case, we can’t simply assume that detoxification will cure alcoholism or drug addiction. The underlying issues that drive individuals to substance abuse must also be treated accordingly so that patients do not relapse and fall into a vicious circle of failed recovery.

Treatment-resistant depression is more likely to affect the LGBTQ+ community because the negative impact of social stigmas does not go away on their own. As long as those stigmas hang like specters over the lives of substance abuse patients, there will be a chance that treatment will be difficult, and it may even become recalcitrant in some cases. This is when integrative health solutions may help.

Mental health treatment is not monolithic. As much as we would like to imagine that a magic pill or a few therapy sessions can alleviate our mental health issues once and for all, this is often not the reality. When depression and anxiety become problematic because they do not seem to go away, an integrative approach may put patients on the right track. Some patients respond better to treatments that combine talk therapy with ketamine infusions, particularly those who feel that their mental health conditions are not improving. To learn more about integrative health treatment and ketamine infusions, please contact our office today.

About the Author

Kimberly Sandberg Aloha Integrative Health
Kim Sandberg is the owner and founder of Aloha Integrative Health and a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist. She has two advanced degrees: a Masters of Science in Nursing as a Nurse Anesthetist and a Doctor of Nursing Practice. She has worked in a variety of settings, though the biggest impact on Kim and her work came from her 28 years of service in the Navy Reserve.

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