Exploring the experiences of alcohol service use among LGBTQ+ people in Scotland: a qualitative study

Elena Dimova*, Rosaleen O'Brien, Lawrie Elliott, Jamie Frankis, Carol Emslie

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Abstract

Background:
People who identify as LGBTQ+ are more likely to drink excessively compared to heterosexual and cisgender people. Perceived barriers to accessing alcohol services may further increase the potential for alcohol related harm for LGBTQ+ people. This qualitative study explores the experiences of LGBTQ+ people who have used alcohol services, including peer support groups, in Scotland and their suggestions for how alcohol services could be improved.

Methods:
Participants were recruited using social media adverts, dating websites, organisations that work with LGBTQ+ clients and snowball sampling. Participants’ (n = 14) experiences of alcohol services and peer support groups were explored through semi-structured interviews. Data were analysed using the Framework Approach and thematic analysis.

Results:
Many participants thought their drinking was closely associated with their LGBTQ+ identity, as a response to shame, stigma, or family rejection. Some service users had positive experiences of alcohol services. However, participants were rarely asked about their sexuality / gender identity and some reported a lack of discussion about how identity might impact drinking. There were common views across the sample that barriers experienced by others in the LGBTQ+ community were amplified for trans people. Service users recommended that services need to signal LGBTQ+ inclusivity and provide a safe space to discuss multiple issues (e.g., alcohol use, mental health, gender identity). Participants highlighted the importance of alcohol-free spaces in the LGBTQ+ communities.

Conclusion:
The study has clear practice and policy implications. Alcohol services should provide a safe space for LGBTQ+ people and clearly indicate that. Service providers should be trained to discuss potential connections between LGBTQ+ identity and substance use. At a broader level, alcohol-free social spaces would help reduce alcohol-related harm in LGBTQ+ communities.
Original languageEnglish
Article number103859
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Drug Policy
Volume109
Early online date24 Sep 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2022

Keywords

  • LGBTQ+
  • alcohol-related problems
  • substance use treatment
  • qualitative research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)

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