A new study on prescription opioid abuse rates by sexual orientation confirms earlier, but less extensive studies suggested: Lesbians, gay…
A new study on prescription opioid abuse rates by sexual orientation confirms earlier, but less extensive studies suggested: Lesbians, gay and bisexuals are at higher risk of opioid abuse, according to researchers.
However, the study also raises questions about a worrying trend in a subset of the HLT community. If opioid abuse tends to be lower among women in general – and they say researchers – why are bisexual women at the highest risk of abuse of any group in the study?
New York University School of Medicine researchers’ new study found that 13.5 percent of self-identified bisexual women abused prescription opioids during the past year. Compare it with a 5 percent drug abuse rate among Americans who identify equally straight, and a 9 percent drug abuse rate among those who identify as gay or lesbian, according to a press release from NYU researchers.
“Usually women are protected from drug use,” said Joseph J. Palamar, a senior study author and public health professor at NYU, according to the Washington Post. “It’s usually the men we’re worried about.”
The study uses 201
5 data from 42,802 people who participated in the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. That year, the first survey conducted questions about sexual attraction and orientation. The findings were published November 19 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine – and according to the authors, their research is the first to use a national representative test to study how prescription opioid addiction varies through sexual orientation.
Researchers define “addiction” “Like using prescription opioids against medical orders, without prescription, in large amounts or longer than prescribed.”
The results show that women who said they were bisexual were twice as likely to abuse prescription opioids compared to other orientations, researchers said. While this result differs from the wider trend among women, it was “consistent with trends in literature suggesting increased alcohol and substance use (eg smoking and illegal drug abuse) in bisexual women,” researchers said.
“With the Opioid crisis escalating nationwide, it’s important to focus on preventing abuse among groups at highest risk,” Palamar said in a statement.
Researchers offer a handful of potential explanations, including the “minority stress model”.
This statement suggests that “members of minority groups tend to experience a greater degree of stress due to personal and vicarious experiences of stigma and discrimination, and that this extra stress can deepen individuals to increased doses of abuse, including substance use,” writes researcher. 19659002] Bisexual men on prescription opioid abuse – 8.3 percent – were lower than 13.5 percent of bisexual women who had abused opioids in the previous year. Bisexual men were also less vulnerable than gay men, 10 percent of whom abused opioids during the same period of time. The rate was 5.3 percent for straight men, 3.7 percent for straight women and 6.8 percent for lesbian women, according to the study.
Researchers say that women who identify themselves as bisexuals can get it particularly difficult because they face homophobia from the straightforward society and bifobi from the lesbian community.
Stigma from many sides makes bisexual women’s stress worse, “while they do not provide the kind of community-driven support that can alleviate stigma and discrimination,” the authors write.
Future research will be needed to fully understand why bisexual women’s risk of prescription opioid abuse is higher, according to the study.
To solve the problem identified by the study, researchers recommend training programs aimed at reducing drug abuse rates among sexual minorities
“Primary care staff, teachers and even parents should consider sexual orientation when assessing those at risk of using opioid abuse”, says Dustin T. Duncan, a study author and professor at NYU, in a statement.
Researchers write that they chose to exclude heroin use from the study and focus on prescription opioid abuse “to keep the results easier”.
The authors also warn to use the study to stigmatize LGBT people, Post reports.
“We must continue to document who is at risk,” said Duncan, according to the post. “This study is really the first step.”