Treatment Is More Difficult
When a single person is struggling with an addiction, this person can be rehabilitated and moved into a more sobriety-friendly environment. When an entire community is struggling with an addiction problem, it becomes much more difficult to fully rehabilitate someone from that community. Following our LGBTQ community example, a gay man can be treated for an addiction and be temporarily removed from environments that cater to it. However, with the hostile environment created for gay people in mainstream society, he may be pushed back into problematic situations. The only place he can really receive complete acceptance and feel safe is at his local gay bar. Of course, the communal places where his friends and acquaintances hang out re-expose him to other addicts, more substances, and more reasons to fall back into old habits. It would take a major societal shift both within the LGBTQ community and in mainstream society to rectify this problem.
Experienced Members of the Community Influence Newer Members
Substance abuse is also a major issue in impoverished communities. The lack of financial stability creates stress and hardship, leading people to abuse substances as an escape for their situation. Similarly to the LGBTQ community, older and more experienced members act as a negative influence on younger and newer members. Their longstanding addictions and connections to dealers can very easily be the cause of addiction in new members. For impoverished communities, children see their parents abusing substances as a coping mechanism and learn to follow suit. In the LGBTQ community, there may be little parental influence, but older members often act as parental figures for lost and confused newcomers who may have been outright rejected by their families. This allows the cycle of addiction to continue.
Substance Abuse Can Become a Form of Bonding
In many communities with substance abuse problems, social interaction can often revolve around substance abuse. Gay bars are often the only spaces set aside for members of the LGBTQ community. These bars represent an area where LGBTQ people can be themselves, talk openly, and bond with people experiencing the same struggles they are. Unfortunately, this also means that many LGBTQ people can end up suffering from an alcohol problem. When your only safe space for socializing and dating is a bar, it’s no wonder these issues arise.Unfortunately, community-wide substance abuse problems cannot be solved overnight. It would take significant societal reform to correct many of the issues faced by these communities. For now, the best you can do is to seek out help for individuals, using a counselor or program that is privy to the difficulties experienced by the community in question. Of course, volunteering your time for social reform can help as well. If you can play a part in correcting poverty or attitudes toward LGBTQ individuals, you can help resolve community-wide addiction problems in the future.
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Caleb Anderson is in recovery from an opiate addiction. He hopes sharing his experiences will help others. He co-created RecoveryHope to help people with substance abuse disorders and their families. He resides in Springfield, Illinois.