The Human Rights Campaign Foundation and Partnership for Drug-Free Kids released Preventing Substance Abuse Among LGBTQ Teens, an issue brief focusing on helping parents, educators and other youth-serving professionals understand the unique challenges – including bullying and family rejection – faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) youth that contribute to their heightened rates of substance abuse.
The issue brief is the first product of a new collaboration between HRC Foundation, the educational arm of the nation’s largest LGBTQ advocacy organization, and Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, a national nonprofit working to reduce substance abuse among adolescents. The two organizations are working together to develop content and materials for LGBTQ teens, as well as their parents and families. The resources are designed to promote understanding and provide practical guidance on protecting LGBTQ youth, along with reducing their risk of drug and alcohol abuse through better family support, safer schools and more caring adults in communities.
Among the issue brief’s recommendations to reduce the risk of substance abuse by LGBTQ youth are:
- Parents and caregivers are encouraged to discuss their concerns and expectations about substance use with teens, focusing on health risks, and ask teens to share their perspectives;
- Parents, educators, and youth-serving professionals should actively affirm and support an LGBTQ teen’s sexual orientation and gender identity;
- Educators and youth-serving professionals are urged to confront bias, and create supportive environments for LGBTQ teens;
- And policymakers should fund research into substance abuse prevention, address LGBTQ youth homelessness and eliminate zero-tolerance policies for drug violations.
Additionally, the Partnership and HRC Foundation will work together to expand the visibility and participation of LGBTQ youth in teen-targeted programming, including Above the Influence, the Partnership’s teen substance abuse prevention campaign that reaches millions nationally through social media, public service announcements and community-based activities. Above the Influence takes an affirming approach, and three separate studies have shown it to be effective in reducing substance use among teens who engage with the program. It will be featured at HRC’s Time to THRIVE annual conference for youth-serving professionals in February of next year.
“We’re excited by this opportunity to reach the parents and families of LGBTQ kids via our online resources, our telephone helpline (855-DRUGFREE) and parent coaching program, and provide them with research-based materials that can help reduce family conflict and rejection, strengthen acceptance and lead to healthier LGBTQ youth,” said Sean Clarkin, EVP Research and External Relations at the Partnership.
“This collaboration strengthens our efforts to ensure that the unique experiences and needs of LGBTQ youth are recognized and addressed, by parents and teachers, as well as professionals who provide substance abuse prevention and treatment services,” said Ellen Kahn, Director of the Children, Youth and Families Program at the HRC Foundation. “It’s critical that higher rates of substance use among LGBTQ youth be understood and addressed in a context of understanding and support.”