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

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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.

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.

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.

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
Early online date24 Sep 2022
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2022


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

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)


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