An opioid overdose requires immediate medical attention. Call 911 immediately if you or someone you know exhibits any of the symptoms.

in the LGBTQ+

According to a 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the LGBTQ+ community across all age brackets have an almost three times greater risk of opioid misuse than their heterosexual-identifying peers.

Everyone can play a role in supporting our LGBTQ+ communities. Spreading the word about opioid dangers and resources for treatment and recovery helps make us all stronger.

Get help for opioid use disorder

If you are, or someone you know, is struggling with substance use disorder, there are 24/7 resources to help. Visit our website to learn more about Fast-Tracker.

If someone you know is experiencing symptoms of an overdose, however, call 911 immediately.

Discrimination and Opioid Misuse

For LGBTQ+ Americans, the prevalence of all substance use disorders, including opioid use disorder, can often be attributed to stress and other social pressures.

Research from the National LGBTQ Health Education Center found that many LGBTQ+ Americans face marginalization and discrimination based on their sexual and/or gender identity. To escape these feelings, some LGBTQ+ people may turn to opioids and other drugs for relief.

Source: National LGBTQIA+ Health Education Center

Jenny holding her wrist

The Timeline of Misuse

Trauma and Stigma

Some LGBTQ+ people may encounter discrimination and marginalization due to their sexual and/or gender identity. When internalized, this social stigma can create feelings of shame and worthlessness.

To escape these emotions, some turn to opioids for relief. LGBTQ+ youth, in particular, are more likely than their heterosexual peers to begin misusing opioids. According to a large survey of transgender youth, for instance, 35% who experienced harassment in school reported turning to substances to cope.

People within the LGBTQ+ community are more likely to have experienced hate crimes and often face significantly higher levels of traumatic childhood experiences.

All of these stressors can contribute to harmful substance use.

Prescribed Opioids

According to the LGBT Health Education Center, transgender medical patients have been found to have an increased risk of developing opioid dependence. Opioid therapy is the most common form of pain management prescribed by physicians after gender affirmation surgery.

Members of the LGBTQ+ community living with HIV are also often prescribed opioids for pain management.


Medication-assisted therapy (MAT) can be an effective recovery method when used in combination with therapeutic interventions. When looking for providers and treatment facilities, it’s important to verify their knowledge of the complex medical needs of the community, including but not limited to:

  • Hormone replacement therapy
  • HIV treatment
  • Trauma recovery

Behavioral interventions are often necessary for treatment plans for LGBTQ+ community members.

Treatment for opioid use disorder has been associated with a reduction in high-risk sexual behaviors, as well as the sharing of needles.

A study of gay and lesbian alumni from various treatment programs identified three major themes for getting the most out of treatment:

  1. A separate unit or wing for those who identify as LGBTQ+
  2. Supportive staff
  3. Staff who also identify as LGBTQ+


For more information about opioid misuse within Minnesota’s LGBTQ+ community, download the PDF below to share with your family, friends and colleagues.

Stories of hope

About Know the Dangers

Know the Dangers is brought to you by the Minnesota Department of Human Services in partnership with other state agencies participating in the Minnesota State Substance Abuse Strategy.

To learn more about the opioid crisis in Minnesota, use the link below to visit our website.