LESBIANS, GAY MEN AND ALCOHOL - RESEARCH FINDINGS


BRITAIN

 

* Bridget (1988) - 43% of 14 lesbians in housing pilot study had alcohol problems;

 

* Bridget (1993) - 50% of 20 isolated lesbians had serious alcohol problems;

 

* Creith (unpublished,1994) conducted a survey of 326 lesbians who were mainly from Manchester, Leeds, London and Sheffield. She found that

 

       8.5% labelled themselves as alcoholic or alcohol dependent; and that

 

       37.3% drank over the recommended levels for women (15-26+ units) compared with 11% of women in the general population who drink over the recommended levels (Government statistics based on General Household Survey 1990).

 

* Bloor (1995) studied 120 lesbians and found that:

 

       49% drank more than 14 units a week;

 

       one-third of these drank more than 22 units a week.

 

* Muir-Mackenzie (1996) survey of 55 people at Health of the Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Nation conference found 84% consumed alcohol; 15% consumed more than twenty units per week.

 

* Prajapati (1997) studied drug use and knowledge among 96 young people (55 gay men, 29 lesbians, 13 bisexuals): 67 of the participants used drugs (7 daily, 16 weekly, 22 monthly)

 

* Reachout Reading (1999) 169 young participants, 59% male, 41% female: 15% of respondents considered their alcohol consumption a problem: 16% of men and 14% of women

 

* Bridget (1999) found that 33% of the 15 LGB young people interviewed considered they had a drink problem; of these 4 were female.

 

* Glasgow (1999):

 

 

* Butler et al (2000) 60 women who have sex with women:

 

       Over 80% of respondents had been affected either by their own drug/alcohol use or that of someone close

 

       The majority of those wanting help had sought advice, information, support and counselling, although this was not generally forth-coming

 

* Count Me In (Brighton, 2001): over 1100 lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgendered people took part. 42% of women and 54% of men used recreational drugs.

 

Several studies (US and Britain) suggest lesbians and gay men are also more likely to smoke than heterosexuals. For example

 

       London-based RS Health found 53% of gay men compared with 29% of all men smoked (increase to 77% in HIV positive gay men)

       Solarz, 1999, reports twice as many lesbians are heavy smokers compared with heterosexual women. One half of heterosexual women report never smoking compared with only one-third of lesbians.

       Cochran (2001) examined medical history of 12,000 lesbians over a 15-20 year period: 56% of lesbians compared to 20% of all women smoked. Cochran also found that lesbians were slightly more likely to drink alcohol on a regular basis.

 

LESBIANS AND ALCOHOL MISUSE

ABROAD

 

Most studies (Saghir & Robins, 1973; Diamond & Wilsnack, 1978; Lohrenz et al, 1978; Lewis, Saghir & Robins, 1982; Beatty, 1983; Mosbacher, 1988; Pillard, 1988; McKirman & Peterson, 1989a) reports (Fifield, de Crescenzo, and Latham, 1975; Lesbian and Gay Substance Abuse Planning Group, 1991) reviews of surveys (Weinberg & Williams, 1974; Morales & Graves, 1983) and the experiences of most clinicians working with gay men and lesbians (Finnegan & McNally, 1987; Cabaj, 1997) estimate an incidence of substance abuse of all types at approximately 30% with ranges of 28-35%. This estimate contrasts with an incidence of 10-12% for the general population.

 

However, significant and persistent methodological problems. Nevertheless, irrespective of whether rural/urban, socio-economic settings in US or other countries, rates are strikingly uniform.

 

       Saghir and Robins (1970) found high levels of alcohol consumption among 35% of the lesbian participants, compared with 5% of their heterosexual female sample

       Saghir et al (1973) found 30% of gay men and 35% of lesbians either consumed alcohol excessively or considered themselves dependent

       Fifield (1975) estimated 31% of the gay and lesbia population in Los Angelesexhibited signs of alcoholism or had alcohol problems

       Lohrenz et al (1978) found 29% of their sample of gay men were alcoholics

       Weathers (1974); Fifield, DeCrenzo & Latham 1975) suggest that between 27-35% of lesbians have alcohol problems;

       Lewis, Saghir & Robins (1982) found that 33% of the lesbian participants were heavy drinkers or 'alcoholics' compared with only 7% of the heterosexual controls; and that 28% of the lesbians were 'alcoholics' compared with only 5% of the heterosexual controls;

       Gillow & Davis (1987), in their research on coping methods used by lesbians to deal with stress, discovered that 59% of their participants had previously used alcohol to cope;

 

       In Australia Barbeler (1992) found that 100% of the 200 young lesbian participants drank weekly compared with an earlier study which found that 41.4% of women in the same age group drank at all.

 

 

For several years now there have been large-scale studies conducted with high-school students in some areas of the USA. Again, these have consistently found higher levels of abuse (both alcohol and drugs) among LGB young people than among heterosexual youth:

 

       Minnesota (1987): 33.5% of LGB youth had engaged in heavy drinking (>five drinks at a time)

 

       Seattle (1995): 35.8% of LGB students compared with 22.5% of heterosexual youth engaged in high risk or heavy drug use

 

       Massachusetts (1997): 46% of LGB students compared with 16% of heterosexual students had ever used hallucinogens; 77% LGB/50% had ever used marijuana; 33%LGB/7% had ever used cocaine

 

       Vermont (1997):

 

       smoked cigarettes in past 30 days: 64% youth with same-gender experience, 55% youth with opposite-gender experiences,17% youth with no sexual experience;

 

       drank alcohol every day for past 30 days: 16% same gender, 2% opposite gender, 0% no sexual experience;

 

       had at least one drink on school property every day for past month:11% same gender, 1% opposite gender, 0% no sexual experience;

 

       smoked marijuana 40 or more times in past 30 days: 22% same gender, 10% opposite gender, 1% no sexual experience;

 

       smoked marijuana on school property 40 or more times in past 30 days: 12% same gender, 1% opposite gender, 0% no sexual experience;

 

       used cocaine in past 30 days: 29% same gender, 7% opposite gender,1% no sexual experience;

 

       injected illegal drugs two or more times: 19% same gender, 3% opposite gender, 0% no sexual experience

 

83,000 Youth (2000): 8 US high schools; 5 included questions on sexual orientation. Findings included:

 

       Seattle: LGB youth were half again as likely to engage in heavy or high risk drug use (reported by 35.8% of LGB and 22.5% of heterosexual youth)

 

       Vermont: 27% of students with same-gender experience, compared with 6% of students with only opposite-gender experience and 1% of those with no sexual experience had ever injected a drug

 

       Minnesota: One-third of sexual minority students reported having engaged in heavy drinking defined as more than 5 drinks at a time, reported 33.5% of sexual minority youth)