Young people who identify themselves as lesbian, gay or bisexual are at an increased risk of consuming substances such as alcohol, nicotine and marijuana, warns a study.
They are also at a higher risk of using polysubstances, which means that they use more than one substance as their heterosexual counterparts, according to a study published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.
"These data definitely show that the use of polysubstances is a problem for many adolescents who identify themselves as sexual minorities, which means that they are exposed to additional health risks," said Sarah Dermody, assistant professor at Oregon State University in the US.
"But there are also differences between the subgroups of adolescents who identify themselves as sexual minorities, suggesting that we need to look beyond the averages to understand what factors can affect substance use in this population," said Dermody.
The sexual minority is a collective term for those who identify with a sexual identity other than heterosexual or who report same-sex attraction or behavior.
In the study, researchers focused on adolescents identified as lesbian, gay or bisexual.
Dermody investigates risky behaviors, such as alcohol and nicotine consumption, with the aim of better understanding factors that contribute to the use of the substances and how to best intervene when the use is problematic.
Among the teenagers, alcohol, marijuana and nicotine are the three most commonly used drugs. This is a problem as adolescents consuming these substances run the risk of adverse health and social consequences, including addiction and poor cognitive, social and academic function.
Recent research has shown that youth from the sexual minority consume almost three times as many drugs as heterosexual adolescents. The disparity could be partly due to stress from discrimination, violence and victimization based on the status of the sexual minority, said Dermody.
The aim of the study was to better understand the risks associated with the use of polysubstances or the use of three or more types of drugs in adolescents from sexual minority.
It's an area of research that's largely untested, Dermody said.
"The experiences of young people who identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual are generally inadequate in research," she said.
Researchers analyzed the results of a 2015 survey of more than 15,000 adolescents. The data showed that there are a considerable number of adolescents, both heterosexual and sexual minority, who do not use any substances at all, said Dermody.
However, among those who did, she found that those identified as adolescents with a sexual minority were at a higher risk of consuming any type of drug – alcohol, marijuana, and cigarettes – than heterosexual adolescents.
Overall, they are also at greater risk for the abuse of polysubstances.
Within the youth minority of adolescents, some groups were more at risk than others using one, two or all three substances.
For example, bisexual adolescents faced the greatest risk of polysubstance abuse and combinations of two substances, while those identified as lesbian or gay had only a higher risk for some combinations.
"The findings suggest that it may be a good practice for health care providers serving these adolescents to make substance use assessments as part of regular health checks," said Dermody.
(This story was not edited by devdiscourse staff and is automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)