Challenges and Opportunities in Substance Use Care for LGBTQ+ Individuals 

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For Employers
3 min read


Now that we’re in the heart of Pride Month 2024, it’s essential to reflect on the progress made towards LGBTQ+ rights and the ongoing challenges faced by this community. At Pelago, we’re committed to fostering an inclusive environment and providing support for LGBTQ+ individuals, particularly in the realm of substance use disorder (SUD) treatment. 

Pride Month, celebrated each June in the U.S. and globally, commemorates the 1969 Stonewall Uprising, a pivotal event in the LGBTQ+ rights movement. This month-long celebration honors the courage and contributions of LGBTQ+ individuals and serves as a reminder of the ongoing fight for equality, justice, and inclusion. As President Biden stated in his 2024 proclamation, “We recommit to realizing the promise of America for all Americans, to celebrating courageous LGBTQI+ people, and to taking pride in the example they set for our Nation and the world.” 

Challenges and Barriers to Care in the LGBTQ+ Community

Despite significant strides in LGBTQ+ rights, the community continues to face unique challenges, particularly in the realm of health and substance use. According to the National LGBT Health Education Center, LGBTQ+ individuals are disproportionately affected by SUDs. A 2019 survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found that about half of LGBTQ+ adults with an SUD struggled with illicit drugs, and three in five struggled with alcohol use.

One of the most formidable barriers to effective substance use care is stigma. This is particularly pronounced for LGBTQ+ individuals, who often face higher levels of social stigma, discrimination, and harassment. 

Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion at Pelago

Diversity, equality, and inclusion (DEI) are central to Pelago’s philosophy, and we recognize the importance of providing inclusive and culturally competent care for LGBTQ+ individuals. We employ culturally competent providers, coaches, and counselors, including LGBTQ+ individuals, to ensure that our care culture understands and meets the specific needs of different populations. Our commitment to DEI is also reflected in our tailored treatment goals and objectives, which address the unique individual needs that can contribute to the development of SUDs, such as social, psychological, and environmental factors. 

Combining cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) with medication-assisted treatment (MAT) has proven effective in addressing SUDs. This framework, endorsed by the National LGBT Health Education Center, can be successfully applied to the LGBTQ+ population. Pelago’s virtual capabilities further enhance access and privacy, making it easier for individuals to seek safe, judgment-free help.  

Pelago’s approach includes:

  • Multi-disciplined Care: A nationwide network of physicians, nurse practitioners, coaches, and counselors providing synchronous telehealth and asynchronous in-app messaging
  • PelagoRx: Discreet prescription home delivery and in-app adherence tracking.
  • Remote Monitoring: Tools like breathalyzers for tobacco and alcohol, urinary test kits for opioids, and aggregated client-level feedback
  • Personalized Technology & Support: Interactive digital CBT content, craving tools, tracking, and gamification

As we celebrate Pride Month 2024, let us recommit to supporting the LGBTQ+ community by addressing the unique challenges they face and providing inclusive, culturally competent care. Employers and health plans should be aware of the profound impact these issues have and consider inclusive virtual substance use management solutions such as Pelago in caring for diverse populations.  Our virtual care model enhances access and privacy, helping to destigmatize and personalize SUD treatment.

At Pelago, we’re dedicated to transforming substance use care and ensuring that all individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, have access to the care they need. By fostering understanding, raising awareness, and advocating for equal rights, we can create a world where everyone can thrive without fear or limitations.

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