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Strong Link Between Victimization and Substance Abuse

Researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) have found a strong association between substance abuse and victimization, especially among gays, lesbians, and bisexuals. Lead author Tonda Huges, professor and interim head of Health Systems Science in the UIC College of Nursing, said that the association was stronger in gays, lesbians, and bisexuals than in heterosexuals.

The researchers compared experiences of forced sexual activity, neglect, physical violence, and assault with a weapon across four groups: Heterosexual, gay or lesbian, bisexual, or “not sure.” The researchers also used data from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions, which included data from 34,635 adults.

Hughes and colleagues wanted to find out if gays, lesbians, and bisexuals were at a higher risk of victimization. The study suggested that they are: Lesbian and bisexual women were more than twice as likely as heterosexual women to report victimization in their lifetime; lesbians, gay men, and bisexual women also reported more victimization than heterosexuals. Lesbians were three times more likely than heterosexual women to report childhood sexual abuse.

Hughes noted that this could be because lesbians are often more willing to acknowledge and report these types of experiences than heterosexual women. Hughes said that gays and lesbians tend to be more self-reflective, which means they may be more likely to report negative life experiences than heterosexuals.

The report also showed that gay men have high rates of victimization—about half of the participants reported an experience over their lifetime. Gay men reported a significantly higher rate of childhood sexual abuse, childhood neglect, domestic violence, and assault with a weapon than heterosexual men.

Hughes added that there was also a higher rate of substance abuse among those who experienced victimization. Women (regardless of sexual identity) who reported two or more victimization experiences were two to four times more likely to suffer from alcohol dependence, drug addiction, or drug abuse compared to women who reported no victimization.

The researchers also said the study suggests that gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth may abuse substance to cope with the negative effects of victimization, which increases the risk of further victimization from others. Clinicians could use this information to better treat patients suffering from victimization and/or substance abuse issues.

Source: Science Daily, Strong Link Found Between Victimization, Substance Abuse, February 24, 2011

Posted on February 25th, 2011

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