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Alert! New study reveals lesbian, gay and bisexual youth are at a risk of indulging in multiple substances

Speed News Desk | Updated on: 17 September 2018, 10:46 IST

A new study from Oregon State University has found that young people who identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual are at increased risk of using substances such as alcohol, nicotine and marijuana.

The study also revealed that these youth are at higher risk of polysubstance use, which means they are more likely to use more than one substance than their heterosexual peers, according to the study which was just published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

"This data shows definitively that polysubstance use is an issue among many youths who identify as sexual minorities, meaning they are facing added health risks," said Sarah Dermody, an assistant professor in the School of Psychological Science in OSU's College of Liberal Arts. "But there are also differences among the subgroups of youth who identify as sexual minorities, suggesting we need to look beyond the averages to understand what factors may be influencing substance use in this population."

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A sexual minority is an umbrella term for those who identify with any sexual identity other than heterosexual or who report same-sex attraction or behaviour For the purposes of the study, the researchers focused on those youth who identified as lesbian, gay or bisexual.

Dermody studies risky behaviors such as alcohol and nicotine use with the goal of better understanding factors that contribute to the substances' use and how best to intervene when the use is problematic.

Among youth, alcohol, marijuana and nicotine are the three most commonly used drugs. That is a concern because youth who use those substances are at risk of negative health and social outcomes, including addiction and poor cognitive, social and academic function.

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Recent research has shown that sexual minority youth reported nearly three times more substance use than heterosexual youth. The disparity may be due in part to stress from discrimination, violence and victimization rooted in their sexual minority status, Dermody said.

The study was conducted to understand the risks associated with polysubstance use, or the use of three or more types of drugs, among sexual minority youth. It is an area of research that is largely unexamined, Dermody said.

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First published: 17 September 2018, 10:46 IST